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non compete

By DAVE ·
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I was told after working for a company for 15 years I had to sign a non-compete. I refused and the companies reasoning was they said the company would be liable if one person refused. They described a scenario where a employee could sue the company if they knew I was employed but was not under a non-compete. Is that a true statement? I do work on the weekends that under this agreement would be impacted.
I look forward to your response.
Best,
Dave Miller

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by Oldefar In reply to non compete

You need to check with a lawyer on this one, Dave. Don't trust the well meaining opinions of your technology peers.

In the US, most areas have a Legal Aid Society if the cost of a lawyer is beyond your means. Otherwise, look for a lawyer who focuses on employment law. Unions like CWA might make be able to provide a good referal.

Best of luck to you.

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by Gandolph In reply to non compete

I agree, you need to rely on the answer of an attorney. This is a legal and not a technical question. Legal advice is the best way to get an answer you can hang your hat on.

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by sylvain_perrier In reply to non compete

Hi Dave:

I can only recommend that you speak to legal on this one. Sounds like a ploy to get you to sign the non-compete. Non-compete agreements are usually put in place for for two reasons. First one protecting IP by preventing you from applying that knowledge at another similar side job. The second, preventing poor performance caused from moonlighting on the side. I've had my employees sign non-compete agreements strickly for IP protection but never did I ever use that type of excuse but think of it this way. If you knew that I was moonlighting and getting all this extra cash and sharing all the ideas that you and I developed wouldn't you want to sue.

Send me an e-mail if you have any questions I might be able to ask my law dude.

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by misailor In reply to non compete

In Alabama I learned from an attorney the state did not generally recognize a non-compete agreement where it would limit the ability of the employee from "sustaining" himself. I was told this generally was construed to mean simply working. You need to obtain legal advice from an attorney practicing in the state you are working in, and I would feel more comfortable if the attorney (or most likely a coworker) dealt with this issue. Book knowledge is great, but I prefer to hear it from someone with working knowledge.

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by PHelms In reply to non compete

An aside... my employer used the same argument... fear of the threat of lawsuits from other employees... to justify disallowing telecommuting. I wonder if this reason is given for other restrictive policies, too.

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by softcorp.us In reply to non compete

Hello Dave...

In exchange for the privilege of working for one company, a non-compete agreement prevents you from working for anyone else that competes with that company for a period of time after you leave. Thus, the agreement means they own you. The penalty for quitting is not being able to do your profession for a period of time.

Telling you that you must sign so other employees don't sue may be true but it is not the real reason (as I'm sure you know). They want to prevent you from leaving the company without incurring a penalty. Of course, this gives them leverage over you while you continue to work there.

As others have said, you should definitely consult an attorney on this. And, you should decide in advance if you are willing to be fired over not signing. It's an individual decision.

I don't know about Florida law. But, in California, non-compete employment agreements are illegal. In California, an employer owns trade secrets and intellectual property. Former employees cannot divulge either and this is appropriate. But, they do not own your ability to work in your own profession.

Best of luck to you.

-----Steve Jackson

CEO/CSA
Software Corporation (Softcorp)
http://www.softcorp.us/probono
Advanced pro bono tools and utilities free for personal use


P.S. When you get a chance, be sure to rate the answers you receive and close your question when your ready.

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by szymonik In reply to non compete

All of the advice to seek legal counsel are ddead on, but there are two other very important points worth noting about non-compete agreements when working with management, and especially given your long tenure with the company.

The first is that by suddenly asking you to a sign a non-compete, your employer is changing the contractual and legal nature of their working agreement with you in their favor.

Picture a balance beam - on the one end you have restrictive non-competes, on the other is employment at will where you and employer can part ways for any reasson at any time with no strings attachec. A non-compete swings this balance beam in their favor.

The point being that you are in an ideal position to request something from the company in exchange for sigbing the non-compete - asking them for a nice or extended severeance agreement for example.

The second and more important point is that your employment agreement with your employer is between YOU and your employer - what they decide to do or not to do with the rank and file does not concern your working agreement and relationship with them - and the arguement they presented is very weak at best.

Do you have the same contract and package your CEO does? If not, why don't you sue about that using the same argument?

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by jtakiwi In reply to non compete

My company just did the same thing. Under Alabama law (I suspect other states as well) signing a non compete cannot be a condition of continued employment. If they want to make that an employment condition for new hires, fine, but unless you volunteer to sign it after you are hired, they cannot force you to do it. That doesn't mean they won't try to pressure you, as you have already experienced.

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