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AreaOne's avatar

How do I get out of a non-compete agreement with my company?

Asked by AreaOne (75points) December 21st, 2007

I work for a small web development company and the owner simply doesn’t know how to properly run a business. The company is NOT stable and I want out, but we have a 2 year non-compete if I leave. How can I bypass it?

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7 Answers

glial's avatar

What about if you get fired? I would check with an attorney.

Did you sign anything?

TofuJunkie's avatar

Legally, a company cannot prevent you from earning a living. If non-competes were that binding, then corporations could just hold them over all their employees, effectively forcing them into indentured servitude.

There’s a difference between doing highly proprietary work (e.g., building or maintaining patented medical equipment) versus a relatively common occupation like web development. While there are certain circumstances that make non-competes more binding than others, I doubt simply being a developer for a small firm is such a circumstance.

So long as you aren’t directly and collectively soliciting your current employer’s customers, then there shouldn’t be an issue anyway.

However, I second glial’s post regarding a contract. I think there’s a 90% chance you’d be fine, but you never know.

AreaOne's avatar

Yes, we did sign a contract. However, that contract is not signed by a lawyer and it is not notarized, he created the contract himself.

I think that I would be totally fine as well in the long run, I mean even if he sues me, what exactly would he be suing for?

glial's avatar

I assume he would be suing for your wages, but like TofuJunkie said, unless it is very specific, I wouldn’t sweat it.

If you do specific development, say for financial institutions and you left to start a company that did the exact same thing, it may be an issue.

Saying that if you leave you can’t do development at all for 2 years just doesn’t hold water.

If he did the contract himself, it may or may not be legal; i would guess that it isn’t. Again contact an attorney.

If the contract is not specific about you being terminated or just quitting, I would probably find another job, come to work and get myself fired rendering the contract null and void.

Does the contract have a geographic limit? Such as, You can’t compete within 2 miles, or in your city, or state etc. If it doesn’t, that could null it.

Also, are “direct competitors” defined in the contract, if not that could null the contract.

chaosrob's avatar

A non-compete doesn’t mean that you’re simply disallowed from working in your field, no one has the right to deny you the ability to make a living with your skills. However, employers often use agreements of this type to drag an employee into court and spend money litigating the issue. Often, that “penalty” is enough to deter an employee from seeking to break the contract. However, given that the contract wasn’t notarized, that it’s been written by someone who doesn’t practice law, and may encumber you in a way that isn’t tolerated under the laws of your state, you can probably get out of it, assuming you can afford to go to court.

drive_by_dev's avatar

Another important issue would be in what state you reside. Quite simply, in some states, non-competes are not enforceable. Seek counsel; however, I’m sure there is a resource near you that can give you a more definitive answer for little or hopefully nothing. If you go the getting fired route (which could be fun) be sure not to make an enemy of someone who is vindictive. If your boss has the money he could make it an expensive pain whether he wins or loses.

glial's avatar

Any update on this?

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