What is a non-compete agreement, and is it enforceable?

Non-compete Agreement

A non-compete agreement (also sometimes referred to as a “restrictive covenant”) is a contract between a company and an employee that prevents an employee from going to work for one of the company’s competitors.

The justifications that companies often give for these agreements are to protect trade secrets and to keep competitors from poaching their best employees. Non-compete agreements are restrictive, but generally only last for a limited period of time, after which the employee can work for any other company without legal consequences.

Why non-compete agreements are controversial:

A non-compete agreement essentially prevents an employer from going to work for a competing company when they leave their job. Non-compete agreements are usually required as part of the initial hiring process, and can severely limit an employee’s ability to get a new job with a similar company in their chosen field, at least if they want to avoid legal trouble.

However, it’s important to note that these cases rarely hold up in court, because the employer’s burden of proof is quite high. The employer must be able to prove that their former employee damaged their business by breaching the contract they signed, and such proof rarely exists. The courts also tend to be sympathetic to the fact that employees bound by restrictive non-compete agreements often have trouble making an income.

What are the rules for non-compete agreements in Washington D.C.?  

As an employee in Washington D.C., you are protected by the Ban on Non-Compete Agreements Amendment Act of 2020, in which the district joined California and a handful of other states in prohibiting almost all non-compete agreements.

This legislation prevents employers from prohibiting employees in D.C. from simultaneously or subsequently working for a competitor or third business party. There are only a handful of exceptions to this ban. The act officially took effect on March 16, 2021, so employees in the district are free to conduct outside business activities (even competitive ones) while employed or post-employment.

What are the rules for non-compete agreements in Georgia?

The Vaughn Law Firm also provides top-notch representation to clients in Georgia from our conveniently located offices in Decatur. For employees in Georgia, it is crucial to note that Georgia law does allow employers to enforce non-compete agreements in the state, and there are specific business-friendly rules that make this easier than in other states.

The laws in Georgia are particularly business-friendly because of an amendment to the Georgia Constitution that changed a longstanding rule stating that a non-compete agreement if the contract contained any unenforceable terms. The new law made it so that non-compete agreements could stand even if it had an unenforceable term, and the court could remove such terms while leaving the remainder of the agreement intact.

Because the laws regarding non-compete agreements are quite strict in Georgia, it’s crucial for employees to consult with an experienced lawyer before signing an employment contract, or if you are concerned about potentially violating an agreement you’ve signed. Fortunately, with the guidance of a knowledgeable attorney, you can rest easier knowing you have someone on your side who is looking out for your rights and best interests.

Contact an Employment Lawyer Today

The experienced employment lawyers of The Vaughn Law Firm represent clients in Washington D.C. and Georgia. We are here to help you understand your rights and legal options, whether you’ve been asked to sign an agreement or whether you are concerned about how an agreement you’ve signed will affect your future. Call us at (877) 615-9495 or fill out a contact form to schedule a confidential consultation with us today.