Employers in New Jersey often require employees to sign a noncompete agreement as a condition of employment. While these agreements are designed to protect an employer’s confidential business information, signing a noncompete may unfairly limit your future employment opportunities and potentially expose you to legal liabilities. The best way to protect your rights is to consult with an experienced employment agreement attorney.
At Castronovo & McKinney, we are highly experienced in handling all types of employment agreements, including noncompete agreements. While these agreements are enforceable if the employer can meet the requisite legal standard, a noncompete must not be overly broad or restrictive.
Whether you need assistance reviewing a noncompete agreement, defending a lawsuit for violating a noncompete provision, or challenging a noncompete agreement in court, we will provide you with trustworthy advice and work to protect your right to earn a living. Contact our office today for a consultation.
What is a Noncompete Agreement?
In the context of an employment relationship, a noncompete agreement prohibits an employee from working for an employer’s competitors, starting a competing business, or soliciting the employer’s clients, customers, and other employees. Noncompete agreements typically become effective after the employee leaves his or her place of employment. Finally, it is worth noting that noncompete agreements are also commonly used in the sale of a business.
In New Jersey, courts are reluctant to enforce employee noncompete agreements because the state has a strong public policy recognizing an individual’s right to work and pursue a livelihood.
However, signing a noncompete agreement is typically a condition of employment across multiple industries throughout the state. Also, it is becoming increasingly common for employers to file lawsuits against employees for violating the terms of noncompete agreements.
When is a noncompete agreement legally enforceable in New Jersey?
For a noncompete agreement to be enforceable, the courts require that the agreement:
- Does not impose an undue hardship on the employee
- Protects the legitimate interests of the employer
- Does not cause harm to the public
In short, the agreement must be reasonable in terms of duration and geographical region covered, and not prevent the employee from doing a different type of work. If the court finds that a noncompete agreement is overly broad or punishes the employee, the court will likely find that it imposes an undue hardship and refuse to enforce it.
On the other hand, the courts recognize that employers have a legitimate interest in protecting trade secrets, confidential business information, and customer relationships. Moreover, a noncompete agreement will likely be enforced in situations where the employee has a special role. For example, a noncompete may restrict an employee who was responsible for developing customer relationships from soliciting the same customers.
A noncompete will generally be unenforceable if the company fires the employee without cause because the courts consider it unfair for an employer to fire an employee and impose such post-employment restrictions. The courts may be less likely to find an undue hardship if the employee quits. Ultimately, the court will look to balance the employer’s need to protect its legitimate business interests with the employee’s need to continue to earn a living.
What happens if I violate a noncompete agreement?
If you violate the terms of a noncompete by taking a job with a competitor covered under the agreement, your employer may file a lawsuit against both you and your new employer to enforce the agreement and recover damages. Depending on the circumstances, the court may issue an order preventing you from working until the case is resolved. Given the court’s reluctance to limit your right to earn a living, however, the law is on your side. Nonetheless, you need an experienced employment lawyer to make sure your rights are protected.
How Castronovo & McKinney, LLC Can Help
If you have been asked to sign a noncompete agreement, it is wise to have the advice of an experienced employment lawyer. When you become our client, we will thoroughly review the agreement to ensure that it (1) is fair and reasonable and (2) provides you with some form of benefit or consideration (e.g. a job, raise, promotion). We will also negotiate with your employer and their attorneys to arrive at terms more favorable to you.
If you are currently employed under the terms of a noncompete and considering leaving your job, it may be possible to negotiate a release from your employer as long as you have our legal team in your corner. If an agreement cannot be reached, we may recommend going to court if we believe that is in your best interests.
Finally, if you are facing a lawsuit for violating a noncompete agreement, we will represent you in settlement negotiations and work to avoid litigation; our trial-ready approach to each case strengthens our hand at the bargaining table. Above all, will work strategically to protect your interests and your right to pursue a livelihood, in and out of the courtroom.
Contact Our Experienced New Jersey Noncompete Agreement Attorneys
Before you sign that noncompete agreement, talk to an employment attorney at Castronovo & McKinney, LLC. You can rest assured your right to earn a living and your future will be protected. Contact our office today to set up an appointment.