Quitting a job can be a big decision, and sometimes, it comes with a twist that complicates things. When you have a non-compete clause, it can be difficult to know how to line up your next job. It’s designed to prevent employees from leaving and then directly competing against their former employers.
Whether you have an online job or work in an office setting, the non-compete clause can impact your next steps. Just as ending a contract may be considered illegal, breaking a non-compete clause could put you in jeopardy. In this article, we will go over how to protect yourself from a non-compete clause when you leave a job.
1. Determine the validity of the clause
The idea of being held back by a non-compete clause can be frustrating. However, not all non-compete agreements are created equal. That means that you may not be as bound to follow it as you had thought you were. The key is to figure out the validity of the clause.
The duration of the non-compete is one of the first things you should check. Some agreements might restrict you for a few months, while others could span years. Typically, the shorter the period, the more likely it is to be enforceable. Long durations might be viewed as unreasonable. That’s because it could make it impossible for you to make a living.
Geography plays a part as well. If the non-compete restricts you from working in a specific city, state, or country, it might be more acceptable than a clause that attempts to prevent you from working anywhere in the world.
These are things that can make it unenforceable which clears the way for you to start working in the field you were previously in.
2. Negotiate a release
Even if your contract seems like it has no way out and your ability to work is going to be limited, you may be able to get out from under it. Not all employers want to punish you. Many are simply using it as a way to protect themselves from ex-employees that might try to undermine their business.
This means the door may be open to negotiating to get out of it. In many cases, employers might have used a standard non-compete clause without considering its specific implications for individual employees.
3. Legal recourse
If you’ve reached out to your employer and they are not willing to let you out of the clause, you can still pursue legal recourse to be able to start working.
For starters, not all non-compete clauses are enforceable. In some places, for a non-compete to be enforceable, it must be reasonable in scope, duration, and geography. If any of these elements are excessive or overly restrictive, it can be grounds for a legal challenge.
In some jurisdictions, if the non-compete was introduced after you were already employed and you didn’t receive any additional benefit or compensation for it, it might be seen as unenforceable.