Am I at risk of violating my non-compete agreement?

I was recently contacted by a retained search firm about an excellent career advancement opportunity. Upon completing the selection process, I was offered the job. I am concerned however that my current employer will view the new position as being in violation of my employment agreement which states:

"I hereby acknowledge my awareness that during the term of my employment I may have access to certain procedures, business philosophies and marketing strategies that are proprietary to the Company and are a valuable asset to the Company. Therefore, during my employment hereunder and during the one-year period after termination of employment for any cause whatsoever, I will not, either on my own behalf or as an employee, agent or representative of any person, corporation, or other entity, engage, directly or indirectly, in any segment of any business if that segment is competitive with the segments of the business of the Company with which I have been associated. The term "business of the company" as used in this paragraph means and includes the business in which the company is engaged on this date and any other additional business in which it engages during the term of my employment."

If I accept the new position (a huge career boost) I will be working exclusively in a division of the company that does not have competing products with the company which I would be leaving. However, the new company is viewed as the primary competitor of my current organization. Furthermore, in my time with my current employer, I have not been entrusted with any proprietary information (that I am aware of) and I would not be bringing technologies or customers with me to the new role.

Some additional details of my situation include:

1. I was not made aware of a non-compete agreement when I accepted the offer of employment from my current employer.

2. I was presented the employement agreement (of which the non-compete language above was one of many sections) with numerous other HR forms on my first day of work by a secretary (not an HR rep) and was rushed through the signing process.

3. I never received a copy of what I had signed.

Depending on your answer to whether or not I may be at risk of violating an agreement, I would be interesting in a consultation.

Thank you very much. This is an incredible opportunity for my career that I do not want to have to pass on.

1 answer  |  asked Jan 22, 2011 8:00 PM [EST]  |  applies to Ohio

Unlock Non-Compete Agreements: Keys to Escape

Answers (1)

Bruce Elfvin
I am sorry that my answer is a little delayed. Initially, if your new job would not be in a competing division of the new company for 1 year you should be OK. You should talk to the potential boss at the new company and make it very clear that you do not want any assignment in the first year that would compete.
I am certain that your old employer will attempt to make a stink about the new job and employer being a competitor, so be careful on the assignment you take. Your questions concerning the agreement will probably be answered against you as the company does not have to bright line or highlight the agreement. You signed and the company will attempt to enforce. Sometimes a new employer will assist in making sure you are not placed in an awkward postion.

I agree that you should consult with an employment lawyer. You can find one near you at www.oelasmart.net/directory

posted by Bruce Elfvin  |  Feb 1, 2011 12:06 PM [EST]

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