Is a non-compete still valid if you have been fired?

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Is a non-compete still valid if you have been fired?

I worked for a chiropractic business about 1 year ago. Among the time that I worked there, I signed a non-compete form; I remember it saying that it stays intact for 2 years. I then got fired from that job. N,ow a year later, anew chiropractic business is in town and wants me to be their secretary, (which is a different job than what I did at the first chiropractic business). Can I take this new job? I need the money and they shouldn’t have the right to still keep me from having new job if they are the ones who fired me.

Asked on September 12, 2011 under Employment Labor Law, Iowa

Answers:

M.T.G., Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Listen, I am sorry that I thought that your state was Louisiana when it is really Iowa.  Non-cmpetes are enforceable in Iowa even if you are fired.  And Iowa Courts will enforce part of an agreement if they find it valid and invaidate that poriton they find too restrictive.  Iowa courts like agreements between 1-3 years.  They will enforce one where there are trade secrets and the like.  They will not enforce one if it is in any way prejudicial to the public interest.  Good luck.

M.T.G., Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

The validity of non-compete agreements varies from state to state.  There is a general consensus that non-competes agreements that are overly broad or too far reaching are invalid.  The two year term here in your agreement seems to be a key in the Louisiana statute as it seems to state that an employer can not limit an employee for more than two years after the termination of employment.  One really needs to read the agreement to see about the scope and validity.  If as you say your new position has nothing to do with what you did in your old position (and since non-competes generally relate to trade secrets of the employer that need to be protected) then I think that it may be a consideration.  Look, I can not tell you to break the law by violating the agreement.  But I can tell you that if your old employer thinks that this new job does violate it you will hear from them.  And then you will have an attorney look at your agreement and write a letter accordingly.  Good luck.

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

For a definitive answer, you should bring the non-competition agreement to an employment attorney, who can review it with you; that's because, as a contract, the actual language or terms of the agreement are critical to understanding what your obligations are. That said, while it is possible to imagine a non-competition agreement that would remain in effect, at least in some circumstances, after you were terminated by the company, that is very much NOT the norm; except in exceptional cases, noncompetition agreements bind in the event of the employee voluntarily leaving, not when the employee is terminated by the employer. Also, a 2-year noncompetition agreement may not be enforceable against you, anyway--courts will not enforce too-long agreements (since they prevent people from providing for themselves), and 2 years would usually be considered too long except for very senior executive staff or business owners. In addition, usually a non-compete covers doing the same or similar jobs, not very different ones--though again, you need to review the agreement's specific language to be sure.


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