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 when leaving the company. Such agreements are also known by the term "non-compete clauses". Employees who sign them can either receive compensation or simply be required to agree as a condition for their employment.
When are Covenants not to Compete Unenforceable?
Whether or not a judge will conclude that the covenant is enforceable can be challenging to know beforehand. While employer's interest are important, 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 provisions that courts have considered to be unreasonable include terms that last for an unusually long period of time or that cover a geographic around Winston Salem that is unreasonably broad.
The agreements must also deal only with those competitors whose line of employment is reasonably related to the previous employer's. Finally, the employer must have a legitimate business interest behind its motivation for mandating a covenant not to compete.
Do I Need an Attorney when Dealing with a Covenant not to Compete?
Before you sign any documents that could restrict your rights, you may consider hiring a Winston Salem, North Carolina attorney who can review the covenant. The attorney can negotiate modifications to the contract if they are needed, and can draft a new clause which is acceptable to the parties involved. When it comes to suing an employee for breach of a non-compete clause, an attorney can provide valuable advice. They will also be able to counsel employees who need advice for a covenant they have signed.