7 months AFTER accepting employment?

I have been working for a tool and die shop for the last 7 months. I am the information technology administrator and provide strictly computer and IT support. When I accepted the position, there was no mention of a non-compete agreement or disclosure agreement. Now, 7 months later they are presenting me with a non-compete agreement.

I was presented with a non-compete agreement after it came to my boss' attention I was fixing computers outside of work. According to the agreement I am not permitted to fix a computer or provide any services to a competitor in the computer services field and the competitor is up to the disgression of the company I work for.

Is this legal? My job is to provide computer services and is not in direct competition of the company's means of business.

I'd be interested in allowing a lawyer look over this agreement if they are close to St Marys, PA.

2 answers  |  asked Mar 12, 2012 1:28 PM [EST]  |  applies to Pennsylvania

Answers (2)

Christopher Ezold
Before I respond to your inquiry, I must state that we have not spoken, I have not reviewed the relevant documents and facts, and I do not represent you. Therefore, my discussion below is not a legal opinion, but is informational only. Finally, my discussion applies only to issues to which Pennsylvania or Federal law apply, unless otherwise specified.

That being said, it is legal for an employer to demand a noncompetition agreement after employment begins. The agreement isn't enforceable, however, if you are not compensated for it. Continuing employment is not sufficient compensation in Pennsylvania.

Even if you are compensated for the agreement, it appears from your question that it may not be enforceable at all. A noncompetition agreement can only be enforced to the extent that an employer has a 'legitimate business interest' to do so. Mere competition is not such an interest - we are, after all, a free market society. Trade secrets, customer relationships that you were paid to develop and the employer's investment in training you are all 'legitimate business interests.' As your employer does not provide IT services, unless you could not provide IT services elsewhere without inevitably revealing your employer's trade secrets, the noncompete may not be enforceable.

I am not local to you; however, if you would like to discuss this matter further, please feel free to contact me at the below address(es) or telephone number.

/Christopher E. Ezold/
The Ezold Law Firm, P.C.
One Belmont Avenue,
Suite 501
Bala Cynwyd, PA 19004
(610) 660-5585

posted by Christopher Ezold  |  Mar 12, 2012 2:09 PM [EST]
Scott Leah
There are several issues here.

First, while a noncompete agreement can be entered into any time after you begin employment, it must be supported by adequate consideration. In other words, you must be given something in exchange for signing it. If you sign it before you start employment, getting the job is sufficient. But where you are already employed, something more must be provided to you. So that could be an issue as to its enforceability.

Second, any noncompete must be reasonable. That includes the geographic territory, the time period, and what it forbids you from doing. As to the latter, the employer must have a legitimate business interest at stake.

I am in Pittsburgh, and often do work in the northern counties (Mercer, Crawford, McKean, Elk, etc.). I would be happy to look at this for you if you want.

You can reach me at 412-594-5551 or by email at sleah@tuckerlaw.com.

Scott Leah

posted by Scott Leah  |  Mar 12, 2012 1:35 PM [EST]

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