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Am I bound by my noncompete agreement?

Many workers who are considering moving on from their current place of employment are shocked to learn that their employment contract contains a "noncompete agreement." If it is too restrictive, it can prevent you from earning a living in your chosen field at anywhere other than your current employer.

Whether you are negotiating a contract, your employer has asked you to sign a new noncompete agreement, or you have already signed a contract containing the clause, it is important to remember that you may still have rights.

What is a noncompete agreement?

Also known as a "covenant not to compete," the noncompete agreement can state that if you no longer work at your current employer, that you cannot work at certain competitors for a certain period of time. For example, if you work for an auto manufacturer in the Detroit area, your noncompete clause may say you cannot work at another automotive company for the next two years.

You have rights

However, while employers have the right to protect their business' interests, they cannot unfairly limit your ability to make a living. Sometimes, companies count on employees' not knowing their rights and get them to sign and comply with noncompete agreements that are overly restrictive in duration, geography, and scope that cannot be enforced. Additionally, there can be different implications if you resign instead of being fired or laid off.

Remember, at any point, you can even the playing field by consulting with an independent employment law attorney to help you evaluate your options. This can include reviewing an existing contract to determine if you have grounds to have it thrown out or negotiating a new contract with your employer. But of course, the best time to consult with an attorney is before you sign anything .

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