How enforcable is a non-compete contract?

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How enforcable is a non-compete contract?

I have signed a non-compete clause with my old company. I left and went to a new company that does not consider itself a competitor with the first company, but the first company does. The contract states that they won’t deny my written permission to work in research elsewhere but they did. They also did not sign the contract. Do I have a case?

Asked on August 20, 2012 under Employment Labor Law, Minnesota

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

As a general matter, a non-competition agreement is enforceable as per its plain terms. It does not necessarily matter if the new employer considers itself a competitor or not--if the old company believes it is, it could sue you to enforce the contract and look to prove in court that you are working  for a competitor (and you could present evidence to the contrary).

If they are required to grant you permission to work in  a position like the one you have and they have refused to, they may be in breach of contract, which could in turn allow you out of your obligations under it; again, these agreements are enforceable as per their plain terms against both employer and employee, and a material breach by one party can excuse the other from its obligations.

If the company drafted and provided the contract to you and you signed it, it is most likely enforceable: a contract is formed when their is offer, acceptance (showing mutual agreement) and consideration. They offered you the contract; you accepted it by signing; that shows mutual agreement; and that you were (presumably) employed after signing it was consideration.


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