A non-compete clause is a standard part of most employment agreements. Its purpose is to protect the company from losing business and valuable employees.
Refusing to sign a company’s non-compete agreement may cost you the job. If you have already signed one and find yourself in a legal dispute for breaking it, the legal system will generally choose your right to earn a living over enforcing an unreasonable contract clause.
There are many reasons companies insist their employees sign a non-compete agreement. Primarily, they do not want you to leave the company and take its customers with you, whether to another company or to start one of your own. They want to prevent you from divulging trade secrets or revealing private company matters that could impact its reputation as well. Also, since valuable employees may represent a significant investment of time and money, companies would prefer not to lose them to the competition.
A non-compete agreement will usually prevent you from doing business with the company’s existing customers. However, it might seek to prevent you from working in a geographical region or even a particular industry. Some agreements may extend for an unreasonable period of time. The good news is that the company may be willing to release you from the agreement, so it is definitely worth your while to ask the question.
You have the right to earn a living. However, while and an overly aggressive non-compete might be unenforceable, your former employer has the right to file a lawsuit against you if you break it.