Understanding Non-Compete Clauses
In the State of Missouri, non-compete agreements are enforceable when they are found to be reasonable in a court of law. While not every state enforces these restrictive covenants, Missouri recognizes that employers may have a right to protect very narrowly-tailored business interests. These business interests must actually be threatened by the former employee, otherwise the court is reluctant to infringe on a former employee's right to seek employment. If you have a non-compete agreement or your employer is asking you to sign one you should contact an employment law attorney who has extensive experience litigating this specific issue.
Customer Contacts and Trade Secrets
Non-compete restrictions are enforceable only to protect certain narrowly-defined and well-recognized interests, specifically customer contacts and trade secrets. In this regard, non-compete agreements are enforceable only to protect against unfair competitive use of either customer contacts or trade secrets.
Reasonable Scope and Duration
Further, non-compete clauses are only enforceable to the extent they reasonably protect an employer's business interests. This means that a court will only enforce these clauses if they are reasonable in geographic scope and duration.
What if your former employer, who operates solely in the St. Louis area, wants to enforce a non-compete agreement to prevent you from working for a 'competitor' in Texas? A court is unlikely to find that the employer has any protectable business interests in a state or city in which it has no facilities or employees.
Similarly, what if your former St. Louis employer wants to prevent you from working for another St. Louis competitor for three (3) years from the date of termination of employment? The court generally refuses to enforce non-compete agreements longer than two (2) years, and even the longer durations are often found unreasonable.
Of course, each industry and each employer is different and whether the court will find a non-compete agreement enforceable depends on the specific facts of the case.
What Does A Typical Non-Compete Clause Look Like?
Generally, non-compete clauses are part of an employment agreement, but some employers may also attempt to enforce non-compete clauses that are separate from the employment contract. The following is an example of a simple non-compete clause:
Am I Bound To Follow My Employer's Non-Compete Clause?
Each non-compete clause is different. Whether these restrictive covenants are enforceable in your particular circumstances often depends on a highly fact-sensitive analysis. However, some non-compete clauses may be unenforceable no matter what the particular circumstances of your case.
To schedule a consultation to discuss your non-compete clause or other employment contract issues call Attorney Jason M. Finkes at (314) 645-4100 or fill out our contact form and we will contact you to schedule a meeting as soon as possible.