What information is needed to find out if a non-compete agreement would apply to my husband?

My husband was hired by Company #1 in FL, 13 years ago. (He was trained elsewhere.) Company #1 was then bought by Company #2 about 11 years ago, while we were still living in Florida. Somewhere along the line Company #2 asked him to sign a non-compete agreement, which he did not sign. (He just ignored any requests by them to sign it.) He did continue working for them in the years since. Two and a half years ago he transferred within Company #2 to Ohio, where we now live. Company #2 has rolled over management numerous times, so it is probably impossible to find copies of any papers he has signed over the years...but to our knowledge, he hasn't expressly signed a non-compete agreement in either state, though we don't know if they somehow snuck it in somewhere else that we missed. ie: We don't know if, by using their online paycheck pay stub system, we agreed to be bound by that agreement.

We now have the opportunity to purchase a pre-existing business in the same field here in Ohio. We do not know how to find out if this is possible without the risk of getting sued by Company #2. My husband is 99% sure that if he simply asked if he is bound by a non-compete agreement, they would #1) give a blanket yes, and #2) find a reason to fire him.

What do you suggest? Do you see any way of finding out what agreement my husband is bound by...without risking his current job?

Edited to add...
Thank you for your answer, Neil. He might try contacting HR as you suggested. It is the two management levels direction above him that are known for trumping up reasons to fire people as soon as any rumor hits that they might leave. Perhaps by going directly to HR he can get the answers without those two levels of management finding out.

As to why he didn't keep a copy...well, he didn't sign it, so what need was there to keep one? We were also told that non-compete agreements were not enforceable in FL, anyway (which we saw to be true in his friend's case)...so again, there seemed no reason to keep a copy of a standard form that he never signed.

1 answer  |  asked Jun 1, 2010 10:58 AM [EST]  |  applies to Ohio

Unlock Non-Compete Agreements: Keys to Escape

Answers (1)

Neil Rubin
This message is not meant to: 1) contain my signature; 2) contain legal advice; 3) create an attorney/client relationship; or 4) guarantee confidentiality.

I have but one initial question. Non-compete contracts are important documents because they could bind you contractually to something you really do not want. Why would your husband not keep a copy of something so important?

Okay, now that I have chastised him it appears from your facts that it is a possibility that he may get fired if he should even ASK about the existence of the non-compete? Wow! Could he ask someone in HR to see his personnel file without creating suspicion? (Assuming a document of this sort would be in his personnel file.)

Absent this request and since he does not recall any further attempts, I sincerely doubt that they could "sneak one in" on an online pay stub. There are material provisions in a non-competes which do not lend themselves to "sneaking". Further, I doubt it would be enforceable considering he does not have any knowledge of it. Also, a "blanket yes" does not cut it until you can see it.

Having stated the above, this is just a calculated risk he may need to take. Until an attorney can look at the actual language of an existing agreement, there is really no way of knowing to what extent he is bound.

posted by Neil Rubin  |  Jun 1, 2010 2:46 PM [EST]

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