Is there a way around a non-compete contract?

UPDATED: Mar 12, 2012

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Is there a way around a non-compete contract?

I signed an independent contractor agreement and on the second page it says I am notrequired to work exclusively for this company. Then on page 4 someone has handwritten in that I agree to not compete in the drive-by home inspection business either individually or with any party during the next 5 years. What if I started an LLC and did business under my “business name”.

Asked on March 12, 2012 under Employment Labor Law, Colorado


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

1) You say someone had "handwritten in" a noncompetition clause. If that clause was written after you signed the contract, it is ineffective--one party to a contract (e.g. the employer) cannot unilaterally change or add to what the other party had agreed to. You are only bound by what you yourself signed.

2) Even if this clause had been added before your signature, the clause is probably too expansive and would be "blue penciled," or cut back, by a court. While courts do enforce noncompetition agreements, they will not deprive someone of a reasonable chance to earn a living. As a result, they will reform, or judicially change, non-competition agreements which are too long in time frame or too wide in geographic or industry scope, reducing them to more reasonable levels. A five year non-compete is almost certainly too long; while every case is different, non-owner employees (i.e. anyone but someone who sold the business to a new owner) typically will only have six month to one year  non-competes.

You should therefore bring the agreement to an employment law attorney, who can review it with you and advise you as to your options.

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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