Many employers put non-compete clauses in their North Carolina employment agreements, but this does not necessarily mean these clauses will hold up in court if you challenge them. Your employer probably hopes you will just assume this type of agreement is legal, but many are far too broad to be enforceable.
In North Carolina, the law allows for non-compete agreements but does not favor them. This means it is difficult for employers to enforce them if they face a legal challenge. While the law does allow companies to protect their trade secrets and substantial business interests, the courts require them to do so in a way that does not unreasonably hinder your ability to find other work.
If you have a concern about getting another job because of a non-compete agreement, employee rights attorney Phil Gibbons can review the agreement. The law will not allow an employer to unreasonably restrict where you can work or the type of job you can hold once you leave its company. For a free case evaluation with a lawyer for enforceability of non-compete agreements in Charlotte, call Gibbons Leis, PLLC today at 704-612-0038.
What Is the Purpose of a Non-Compete Agreement?
Employers often include non-compete clauses in employment agreements — and in separation agreements — to limit former employees from working for competitors, in specific roles, or in the same industry for a set period of time and/or in a specific geographic area.
Employers often only attempt to enforce this type of an agreement with high-level employees or those who have access to trade secrets or proprietary information. Some, however, may include them in every employment contract even for entry-level staffers.
This type of agreement is more popular in some industries than others but is gaining popularity across the board. In general, employees tend to overlook these clauses when signing an employment agreement. It is easy to ignore a paragraph or two about what happens a few years down the road. After all, most people do not think about leaving a job during the onboarding process. For this reason, it pays to carefully review your employment agreement with an employee rights lawyer before you sign on.
Is My Non-Compete Agreement Enforceable?
Non-compete agreements may seem relatively benign to workers when they first read them, but this type of agreement may limit your future employment options and prevent you from moving up in your industry. While employers use these agreements to keep others in the same industry from poaching their best employees and to protect trade secrets, the agreement may also prevent you from obtaining a higher paying job. If your employer bars you from working for competitors, you may not have anywhere else to use the specific skills you spent years developing.
Luckily, the courts in North Carolina will not enforce non-compete agreements that are too broad or that place unreasonable restrictions on your future employment and other activities. In general, they will not restrict your ability to earn a living and support your family unless it is absolutely necessary to protect legitimate business interests of your previous employer.
Some of the factors the courts consider when they evaluate a non-compete agreement for enforceability include:
- If the restrictions are necessary to protect substantial business interests
- If this prevents you from finding work
- Whether you can continue to work in the same industry
- Whether you can find work in a related industry with your skill set
- How long you cannot work in a similar position
- The geographic area covered by the restrictions
We can review your agreement and analyze if we believe it is enforceable under North Carolina case law. If it is too broad and puts too many restrictions on your ability to work, we can help you fight the enforcement.
When Does North Carolina Law Enforce Non-Compete Agreements?
A North Carolina non-compete agreement must meet certain criteria before the courts will enforce it. As outlined in Manpower of Guilford County., Inc. v. Hedgecock, these criteria are:
- It must be in writing, in clear language, and presented as a part of the employment agreement.
- There must be “valuable consideration,” meaning the employee receives something of value in exchange, such as a promotion, benefits, or separation pay.
- It must be reasonable, with regards to time, geography, and other restrictions.
- It needs to protect a legitimate business interest.
In other words, the agreement is more likely to be enforceable when:
- It is only as broad as necessary to protect the business; and
- If there is proof you had access to the company’s proprietary information
We will evaluate your case and help you fight for your right to earn a living if we find your agreement is likely not enforceable under North Carolina law.
How Can an Employee Rights Attorney Help Me Fight a Non-Compete Clause?
Charlotte employers must narrowly tailor their non-compete agreements, making them only as broad as necessary to protect their interests. They cannot place broad restrictions on former employees. If your employer attempted to do so, we can fight to ensure you retain the right to earn a living.
At Gibbons Leis, PLLC, we will evaluate your case for free. We handle these cases regularly and know what North Carolina courts look for in an enforceable non-compete agreement. If Charlotte employee rights lawyer Phil Gibbons believes you have a valid challenge, he can act on your behalf. We can take your case to court, if necessary, to ensure any limits placed on your future employment meet state and case law. At Phil Gibbons Law, employment law is all we do.
Call us today to get started: 704-612-0038.