How enforcable is a non-compete contract?

UPDATED: Aug 20, 2012

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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


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 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.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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