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You might be able to break your non-competition agreement

Thomas Jefferson once said, "If a law is unjust, a man is not only right to disobey it, he is obligated to do so." While this is a risky position to take in the 21st century, because it could land you in jail, it might apply to non-competition agreements in certain circumstances. If you signed such an agreement as a part of your previous job, and you want to continue working in the same industry, you might want to review your non-competition agreement carefully to determine if you can get into legal trouble if you break it.

Most non-competition agreements go into effect after the employee and employer have ended their working relationship. The agreement, for example, might require an employee to refrain from working in the same industry for a competing company within a specific area for a specific length of time. However, not all of these agreements are fair, and courts will frown upon one that renders someone unable to work in his or her field of expertise.

Here are a few points that must be true for a court to consider a non-competition agreement valid:

  1. The agreement is supported by valid consideration: This means that the employee has received a thing of value. In the case of an agreement executed prior to employment, the job and pay could be a valid consideration. In the case of one signed after employment, this is not sufficient consideration, and the employee should receive something else, like a promotion or another benefit.
  2. The agreement must legitimately protect one of the employer's business interests: It has to serve an actual and valid purpose for the employer.
  3. The agreement must be reasonable in terms of time, geography and scope: If it is draconian in any of these areas, a court could invalidate it. Again, a non-competition agreement cannot prevent someone from being able to earn a living.

Do you feel trapped by your non-competition agreement? Makes sure you investigate your legal rights and options to determine if you need to adhere to it.

Source: Findlaw, "Non-Competition Agreements Overview," accessed May 31, 2018

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