If I DID sign a non-compete and my employer didn't mention it when I quit… is it relevant?

I worked for a very small local company for 6 years. In December 2010, I told my employer that I had interviewed at another company and was considering an offer (I was in a key role and wanted to give her time to figure out what to do). I told her exactly where I was thinking about going and what kind of work I would be doing. She cried, told me I'd regret it forever if I didn't take this great opportunity, and said she would probably sell the company because she couldn't imagine doing it without me. By the time I resigned in January with one month's notice (and full disclosure of where I was going), however, she had decided that it was an unforgivable personal betrayal on my part and she was furious. We made arrangements for me to finish my major projects within two weeks so that she wouldn't have to see me anymore, and I've been at my new job for about 90 days.

Apparently, she is still very angry (she's like that). Recently, in a conversation with a higher-up at my new company, my old employer made a vague, threatening comment about a non-compete agreement that I may have signed. I have no recollection of signing a non-compete, but that doesn't mean much -- I don't have a great memory for things like that; on the other hand, I'm certain that she never mentioned a word about a non-compete in any of our conversations about my leaving.

Primary question: If there is a non-compete, does she have an open-ended right to file a lawsuit? Would there have been any obligation on her part to at least mention a non-compete before I started work for the new company?

Secondary question: Should I ask her for a copy of any non-compete I might have signed?

1 answer  |  asked May 4, 2011 12:12 PM [EST]  |  applies to Ohio

Unlock Non-Compete Agreements: Keys to Escape

Answers (1)

Bruce Elfvin
While it is difficult for any small employer to have a key employee take another position, the employer will not forfeit the benefit of a legitimate non-compete agreement by failing to mention it. I would suggest that you in a non-hostile way contact your former boss and indicate that you are aware that she believes that there may be a non-compete agreement and you need to get a copy in order to make sure that you comply with any of its legitimate terms.

Most non-competes to be legal must be reasonable in scope (geographically and work wise) and duration (the length of time). So there is no open ended right it expires the primary questions are when and what is covered for how long.

I would discuss this with an employment attorney near you. You can select one at www.oelasmart.net/directory

posted by Bruce Elfvin  |  May 4, 2011 2:38 PM [EST]

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