These days it is not just business executives who have issues with non-compete
agreements. More and more companies are requiring managers and even non-managerial
employees to sign non-compete agreements and other restrictive covenants
that prohibit a departing employee from going to work for a competitor
or trying to persuade clients to follow them. When they first join a new
company, most employees don't think about how such agreements can
limit their livelihoods or hinder their career when they leave the company,
either voluntarily or involuntarily. Frequently, the effects and impact
of non-compete agreements only becomes evident when an employee leaves
their employer and begins looking for new opportunities in the same field.
Some employees incorrectly believe that non-competes aren't enforceable
or that employers do not try to enforce them. In fact, non-competes are
enforceable in Washington and employers can and frequently sue employees
who violate such agreements. In Washington, a judge decides whether a
company can enforce a non-compete agreement and to what extent enforcement
would be "reasonable." A court's response to a claim seeking
enforcement of a non-compete agreement generally depends on many factors
including the nature of the industry involved, the length of time that
the non-compete is in effect, and the geographical scope of the restrictions.
Employees are well advised to understand what they are signing onto before
they sign a non-compete agreement. A departing employee who receives a
letter from his or her former employer threatening to enforce a non-compete
or other restrictive covenant should take such a letter seriously and
immediately seek legal advice. Losing a non-compete case can mean losing
your new job, months of unemployment, and the prospect of paying many
thousands of dollars to the employer and in some cases its attorneys.
Frank Freed Subit & Thomas has represented hundreds of executives and
other employees who have been sued for non-compete or other restrictive
covenant violations, or were concerned that they may be sued. Our firm
has defeated motions for temporary restraining orders and motions for
preliminary injunctions that would remove employees from their positions.
We have litigated numerous non-compete cases to a successful conclusion
and negotiated an agreement beneficial to our clients. We also provide
advice and counseling to employees and executives facing non-compete agreement
issues and frequently can secure more favorable terms for our clients.