Best Ohio Non-Competition Dispute Attorney Answer: Can my last job’s non-compete agreement prevent me from working again in the same industry? Are non-compete agreements legal in Ohio? Will a court uphold my non-compete if my former employer sues me?
Our employment law lawyers often meet with potential clients that come in saying: “I signed a non-compete agreement at my last employer and I am having trouble finding a new job that doesn’t violate the agreement.” No-compete disputes are increasingly commonplace. Non-compete agreements, also known as no-competition contracts and covenants not to compete, prohibit a former employee from working for a competitor or otherwise competing with her former employer for a given period of time. As our employment attorneys have previously blogged about non-compete agreements (See Is A No-Compete Contract Enforceable If I’m A Single Mom And Can’t Get A Job Because Of It?; I Have A Non-Compete Agreement: What State Law Applies?; Is A Non-Compete Agreement Enforceable Even Though I Never Actually Signed One?; Can an Employer Sue its Former Employee?), in a down economy and tough job market, many employees do not give a second thought to signing non-compete agreements as a condition of employment.
Reasonable non-competes are enforceable in Ohio. In Ohio, determining whether a non-compete agreement is reasonable and should therefore be enforced involves balancing any legitimate interests that the employer may have in the agreement against any undue hardship on the employee and any injury to the public that would occur if the agreement were enforced. An undue hardship may be found when the terms of the non-compete agreement make it unnecessarily difficult for the employee to find subsequent work and earn a living. In keeping with this, courts will often either invalidate or modify an agreement that is overly broad in its prohibitions. For example, a non-compete that precludes an employee from working in any capacity, in an entire industry, anywhere in the country would almost certainly be invalidated, or at least modified by the court to reflect a narrower scope.
[Ohio Courts follow] a rule of “reasonableness,” which permits courts to determine, on the basis of all available evidence, what restrictions would be reasonable between the parties. … It permits courts to fashion a contract reasonable between the parties, in accord with their intention at the time of contracting, and enables them to evaluate all the factors comprising “reasonableness” in the context of employee covenants.
Among the factors properly to be considered are: “[t]he absence or presence of limitations as to time and space, * * * whether the employee represents the sole contact with the customer; whether the employee is possessed with confidential information or trade secrets; whether the covenant seeks to eliminate competition which would be unfair to the employer or merely seeks to eliminate ordinary competition: whether the covenant seeks to stifle the inherent skill and experience of the employee; whether the benefit to the employer is disproportional to the detriment to the employee; whether the covenant operates as a bar to the employee’s sole means of support; whether the employee’s talent which the employer seeks to suppress was actually developed during the period of employment; and whether the forbidden employment is merely incidental to the main employment.” Extine, supra, at 406. See Arthur Murray Dance Studios of Cleveland v. Witter (1952), 62 Ohio Law Abs. 17.
… “We hold that a covenant not to compete which imposes unreasonable restrictions upon an employee will be enforced to the extent necessary to protect the employer’s legitimate interests. A covenant restraining an employee from competing with his former employer upon termination of employment is reasonable if it is no greater than is required for the protection of the employer, does not impose undue hardship on the employee, and is not injurious to the public. Courts are empowered to modify or amend employment agreements to achieve such results.
It is just that kind of overly broad prohibition that has sandwich restaurant Jimmy John’s making headlines. Jimmy John’s policy is to have employees sign a non-competition agreement that prohibits them from working at any business that earns at least ten percent of its revenue from selling sandwiches and which is located inside a two-mile radius of any Jimmy John’s store, for a period of two years after separation from employment. Jimmy John’s non-compete is so restrictive that the New York Attorney General is looking into it and some members of Congress have called for an investigation.
Jimmy John’s non-compete is problematic for a number of reasons. In terms of its geographic reach, the sheer number of Jimmy John’s locations means that in many larger metropolitan areas, literally every business is within two square miles of a Jimmy John’s location. Of course, the employees are only prohibited from working at businesses within that radius that draw ten percent of their revenue from selling sandwiches. That encompasses an awful lot of food service businesses, though. One would imagine that the vast majority fast food restaurants, and a good number of sit down restaurants, generate at least ten percent of their revenue from selling sandwiches. The provision effectively precludes employment in an entire industry, across a large swath of the country. For fast food workers in larger metro areas who rely on public transportation, Jimmy John’s non-compete could mean they literally have no prospect of employment for two years after leaving Jimmy John’s.
While non-compete agreements may seem coercive and unnecessary in many employment contexts, they are perfectly legal in Ohio, provided the employer has a legitimate business interest in the agreement and the agreement does not unduly burden the employee or the general public. If you have concerns about a non-compete agreement, you should contact the experienced non-competition dispute lawyers at The Spitz Law Firm.
If you have found yourself asking, “is my non-compete agreement enforceable?” — or even think that you might need an employment lawyer, then it would be best to call the right attorney to schedule a confidential consultation at (216) 291-4744 to discuss your non-competition agreement. The Spitz Law Firm and its attorneys are experienced and dedicated to protecting employees’ rights and solving employment disputes over these types of contractual no-compete agreement.
The materials available at the top of this page and at this employment law website are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. If you are trying to figure out “is my non-competition agreement enforceable,” or “how do I get out of a non-compete agreement,” it would be best for to contact an Ohio attorney to obtain advice with respect to your particular employment law issue or problem. Use and access to this employment law website or any of the links contained within the site do not create an attorney-client relationship. The legal opinions expressed at or through this site are the opinions of the individual lawyer and may not reflect the opinions of The Spitz Law Firm, Brian Spitz, or any individual attorney.