Getting copy of non-compete agreement after being fired.

I have recently been fired. I did sign a non-compete agreement as was required in order to retain my position at that time, but I never received a copy of that contract from the employer. After being fired, I contact my sales manager to request a copy of my agreement. They stated that they would look into getting me a copy but have yet to provide me with one. One of my previous clients wanted to hire me but has been contacted by my former employer to let him know that I signed a non-compete agreement and based upon its terms I would not be able to work for him or anyone else within the industry in the MD/DC/VA marketplace for a period of 5 years. They explained to the company who wanted to hire me that I could not sell to any of my former employer's customers (I wouldn't even know the names of ALL of their customers, only those who I serviced), and that I cannot sell for any for any of their competitors. He also said that the non-compete states that I cannot work for any of the former employer's customers or any of their suppliers. They company is based in Maryland- I cannot imagine all of these terms would be enforcable as it would effectively require that I relocate to another region in order to support my family.

1 answer  |  asked Aug 30, 2006 08:32 AM [EST]  |  applies to Maryland

Answers (1)

Gwenlynn D'Souza
Making a Non-Compete Unenforceable by Injunction

This response is for information only and does not constitute legal advice.

A Maryland non-compete must be reasonable. The court balances the interest of the employer in protecting its business know-how with the interests of the employee in making a livelihood.

When considering protecting the business's know-how, the court will consider whether you provided a unique service, whether you are competing based on your knowledge of long-range development plans of the company, and whether you are using knowledge or "good will" gained solely from your former employer's work. Based on the information you provided it does not appear that you provided a unique service or are planning on competing based on the long-term development plans of the company. You are planning on working for a customer who already has contacts with some of your former employer's previous customers. Maryland courts have distinguished between employee's who use the "good will" of customers through personal relationships created during their former employment and employees who are efficient competitors afterwards. In proving that this non-compete is unenforceable, you would need to show that you are not directly competing in the market providing services that you offered through your former employer and that your potential success is not because of your previous relationship with customers, but because of your hard work at your new company.

Maryland Courts have found 5 years to be too broad for a non-compete, but generally consider about 1 year to be reasonable, depending on the persons level of experience. In your case, a Maryland court, if it found the non-compete to be enforceable, would probably change the terms of your contract from 5 years to 1 year or less.

Unfortunately, signing a non-compete can result in a legal mess. You should consult with an attorney about seeking an injunction and/or declaratory relief.

posted by Gwenlynn D'Souza  |  Aug 30, 2006 10:11 AM [EST]

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