Defeating a Non-Compete Agreement

In this post, I’m going to show you EXACTLY how to get out of a New York non-compete agreement. In fact, this is the exact process we use to help all of our clients get out of non-compete agreements.  If you want to get out of a New York non-compete agreement, you’ll like this post. 

The graphic above makes it easy to see how this works.

You can also visit FindLaw to learn more about non-compete agreements in detail.

Let’s dive right in ….

non compete agreeement

1. Fired Without Cause

Were you fired without cause? If you were fired without cause, you most likely have nothing to worry about.  Courts in New York generally will not enforce a non-compete against you in this situation because it’s so unfair. If your employer is not willing to employ you, then it cannot prevent you from working within your field. It’s just that simple. 

Also, most firings are without cause. Cause only exists if you do something seriously wrong like commit a major crime, steal from your employer or do something intentionally harmful to the company. 

If you were not fired, then go to steps 2 & 3 below.

2. Company Trade Secrets

New York courts will not enforce a non-compete agreement against an employee unless the company has a legitimate interest to protect. In almost every case, the only possible legitimate interests are trade secrets. Therefore, your non-compete agreement is probably unenforceable unless you have access to your employer’s trade secrets.  

Most people do not have access to trade secrets. For example, at the Coca Cola company, their trade secrets are the formulas for coke and other drinks, and they are closely guarded secrets. 

If you do have access to trade secrets or confidential information, then go to step 4 below. 

3. Unique Skillset

Do you have unique or extraordinary skills? This step only covers doctors, famous singers, actors & athletes and nationally renowned experts. Very few people have to worry about this. Unless you are one of them, your non-compete will not be enforced. 

4. Reasonable Geographic Scope

Is the non-compete agreement reasonable in time and geographic scope?  This step only applies if you answered yes to step 2 or 3 above. Generally, a non-compete will be deemed reasonable if the restriction is limited to a year or less but that can vary. An agreement is reasonable in geographic scope if it covers the company’s service area or market.

 For example, if you are a doctor who works for a medical practice that serves Brooklyn, then the non-compete should only cover Brooklyn. Or if you work for Google, most of their products have global reach so a non-compete with Google could cover the globe. 

Summing it Up

Those are the four steps. If you answered yes to the first step or no to steps two and three, then your non-compete is unenforceable. These rules only apply to New York cases because other states have different rules. 

If you need help with a non-compete agreement or want to learn more about New York Non- Compete Core Concepts, please contact us.  

Author Photo

Robert Ottinger, Esq.

Robert Ottinger is an employment attorney who focuses on representing executives and employees in employment disputes. Before starting his firm, Robert slugged it out in courtrooms trying cases for the government. Robert served as a Deputy Attorney General for the California Department of Justice in Los Angeles and then as Assistant Attorney General for the New York Attorney General’s Office in Manhattan.

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