Generally speaking, in North Carolina, a covenant not to compete means that the employee will agree not to work for any of their employer's competitors upon leaving the company. Such agreements are also known by the term "non-compete clauses". Employees who sign them may either receive compensation or simply be required to agree as a condition for their employment.
When are Covenants not to Compete Unenforceable?
Knowing in advance whether a judge will enforce an employee's non-compete clause can be hard. While employer's interest are significant, the courts of North Carolina also put a high level of importance on a person's ability to pursue their desired employment opportunities. Consequently, a court will generally only uphold non-compete clauses which under the circumstances are considered to be reasonable. Some agreements that courts have considered to be unreasonable include terms that last for an unusually long period of time or that cover a geographic around Durham that is unreasonably broad.
Covenants must also be limited to restricting dealings with those competitors that are rationally related to the employer's industry. Lastly, the employer needs to have an acceptable business interest which justifies their motives in requiring their employee to sign a covenant not to compete.
Do I Need an Attorney when Dealing with a Covenant not to Compete?
A Durham, North Carolina lawyer can help you review the covenant before you sign any agreements that might limit your rights. The lawyer can assist you in negotiating modifications or if needed, they can possibly draft a new agreement which will be acceptable to both parties. Employers can receive useful advice from an attorney should they decide to sue a worker for breaching a covenant, and employees who have signed such covenants can also benefit from a lawyer's counseling.