So you are locked into a non-compete agreement, or are you? Here at Maya Murphy, P.C. in Westport, CT, our employment law attorneys have been enforcing and beating non-competes for over a decade. With experience in both New York and Connecticut tribunals, our employment law group has seen it all when it comes to non-competes. Below are just a few of the many ways our attorneys have poked holes in non-compete agreements and freed our clients from their restraint.
1. Your new job may not violate the precise terms of your non-compete agreement:
More often than you might believe, people do not carefully read over the precise words of their non-compete agreement, and don’t carefully consider whether it precludes their intended new job. This potential defense cannot be overlooked, and it often is. For example, in a recent Connecticut court decision, it was held that a lighting fixture employee who transferred to a competing lighting fixture company did not violate his agreement because his new employer did not have a similar product line in the marketplace and it was unlikely any trade secrets he may know would not be put to use.
2. Too vague:
Put simply, a non-compete must be concise and clear. It must define exactly what is restricted and not cover “any restaurant in a 30 mile radius” or “all companies who sell light bulbs in America” or “any company that is in the business of selling food.” A court would find such restriction overly broad and void for vagueness.
3. Unclean hands:
In order for an employer to ask a Court to Order an employee to act in good faith and honorably, the employer, itself, must first be doing so. If the employee departed from the company because of extreme harassment or blatant discrimination, the employer’s non-compete enforcement efforts will likely fail. And, too, if the employer was engaged in illegal or dishonest conduct, in which the employee did not want to participate, non-compete efforts for this reason will also likely fail.
4. No legitimate business interest to protect:
The two recognized and accepted purposes of a non-compete agreement are (1) the protection of trade secrets, and (2) the protection of valuable business relations.
5. Overly broad restraint on time, geography or activities:
Much like the vagueness discussed above, many non-compete agreements are found void for being overly broad. In Connecticut, a non-compete agreement must be legitimately related to a genuine business interest the employer has an interest in protecting and limited reasonably in time, duration, and scope. For instance, many courts find broad geographical limitations that fully restraint a persons employment opportunities void for being overly broad. Additionally, restrictions for more than 5 years are often found void for similar purposes.
6. Against public policy:
Sometimes the effect of a non-compete violates a broader social purpose. For example, if your employer only gave non-compete agreements to Hispanic employees or women of the company. The courts would always find these as a violation of public policy.
7. Fraudulent inducement:
It is what it sounds like, your employer lied to you about the non-compete either before you signed it or before you left their employ. It usually occurs when an employer orally tells an employee they will not enforce the agreement after they leave or that the employee must sign the agreement on the onset or never receive a bonus of a raise. The court will see that the employer tried to trick you and void the non-compete in those instances.
8. Contractual and factual defenses:
A non-compete agreement is a contract and is always subject to many defenses such as: (a) mistake of fact; (b) unsigned document; (c) forgery; (d) material mistake in formation; (e) duress; (f) and illegality.
These are just some of the many ways to beat a non-compete in Connecticut. If you are restricted by a non-compete, or are about to be, consult Joseph Maya and the other experienced employment law attorneys of Maya Murphy, P.C. before you take your next step. Put experience on your side, call 203-221-3100 or email Ask@mayalaw.com today!
Credit: Alan Sklover, skloverworkingwisdom blog