I need your help. I just got a job offer that I have been waiting for but in the
paperwork they sent me they included a non-compete clause for me to sign.
This was never discussed during the interviews. What is it why did they
include it and must I sign it?
The Career Doctor responds:
For certain highly competitive industries I can understand why employers want new
hires to sign non-compete clauses but I am not a big fan of them. They are basically
designed to limit your ability to change employers and work for a competitor — or to
become a freelancer and compete directly with your former employer.
The limits of a non-compete clause can be broad or specific — they can either be
geographic-specific or a detailed list of competitors that are off-limits. There is also
usually a timeframe to non-compete clauses.
The key for you — and any job-seeker in your situation — when asked to sign a legal
document you should immediately contact a labor attorney to get legal advice on the
limitations of the agreement as well as possible counteroffer suggestions. You might
be able to negotiate terms such as the list or type of competitors the breadth of the
geographic scope and the length of time the agreement lasts.
Remember like all parts of the job offer parts of the agreement may be negotiable –
and if they are not then you still might be able to negotiate a better offer for agreeing
to sign the clause.
Finally from my understanding different courts in different states look at these
agreements differently — with the key aspect a striving for balance between the need to
protect an employer with the rights of job-seekers to find gainful employment.
Read more in our latest article published on Quintessential Careers:
Dealing With Non-Compete
Clauses and Agreements.