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Will A Court Uphold My Non-Compete If My Former Employer Sues Me? I Need A Lawyer!

| Oct 14, 2015 | non competition disputes |

Best Ohio Non-Competition Dispute Attorney Answer: Can my last job’s non-compete contract prevent me from working again in the same industry? Are non-compete agreements legal in Ohio? What can I do if 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?

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Non-compete agreements prohibit a former employee from working for a competitor or otherwise competing with her former employer for a given period of time. 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.

Once associated only with white collar workers who have received the benefit of extensive company training, trade secrets, or valuable client information, non-competes have recently become commonplace in lower-wage positions. A while back, our employment law attorneys blogged about restaurant chain Jimmy John’s policy of having all of its employees sign non-compete agreements and the predictable backlash. To refresh, Jimmy John’s non-competes prohibited employees from working at any other business, within a two-mile radius of a Jimmy John’s franchise that earns at least ten percent of its revenue from selling sandwiches. As we discussed at the time, given the sheer number of Jimmy John’s franchises in many metropolitan areas, a Jimmy John’s worker could well find herself unable to work at any restaurant in her town.

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Predictably, Jimmy John’s oppressive non-competes raised the hackles of a number of state and federal leaders, with New York’s Attorney General looking into it and some members of Congress calling for an investigation at the time. Now Senator Al Franken has gotten into the act, unveiling legislation that would ban employers from forcing non-competes upon any employees who earn less than $15 an hour, or $31,000 annually. According to a Franken press release, as many as 1 in 10 low wage workers are currently subject to non-competes with their employers. In addition to banning non-competes for low-income workers, Franken’s MOVE Act would require employers to tell prospective employees when a non-compete could be a condition of employment.

According to Senator Franken, “Forcing lower-wage workers to sign non-compete agreements makes it harder for these workers to find new jobs and stay employed. Agreements like these stifle fair competition and harm workers. We need to challenge this practice, and change the law to protect people who are simply trying to make ends meet. Our bill will fix this issue by removing unnecessary employment barriers that hurt everyday Americans.”

Franken is right. Forcing non-competes on low-income employees, who have little bargaining power, necessarily results in suppressed wages and reduced upward mobility. Even if these non-competes didn’t cause so much harm to the employees, it is hard to imagine what legitimate business interest a fast food chain is protecting when it has its employees sign non-competes.

While non-compete agreements may seem coercive and unnecessary in many employment contexts, they remain perfectly legal in Ohio and most other states, 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 free and confidential consultation at 866-797-6040 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.

Disclaimer:

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.