When you stop working for a company, you expect to be largely unrestricted in where you work next. Sure, you need to have the qualifications for the job, but your previous employer generally has no say in which company or employer you can work for, right? Unfortunately, that is not always the case, especially as more employers include noncompete agreements as conditions for employment.
It is important to note that not all noncompete agreements are valid, and if someone has a question about whether an agreement is enforceable or what the exact terms of the noncompete agreement are, it is wise to talk to an employment lawyer. If an employer has an overly broad or long noncompete agreement, a court may rule it invalid.
So what is a noncompete agreement? Basically, it is a contract that employers use to prevent employees from leaving and going to a competitor.
The rationale behind these types of agreements is that, as an employee, a company invests a considerable amount of time, effort and money in training. Moreover, many employees learn unique processes or information in their roles. By restricting where an employee can work after he or she leaves an employer, the employer can prevent that information from falling into the hands of a competitor.
Others, however, argue that these agreements make it very difficult to find a job. There are some people who are unable to find work nearby because of a noncompete agreement and are forced to rely on unemployment benefits until the agreement's restrictions end.
While there is some debate on whether these agreements should be used, more and more employers are starting to include them as conditions of employment. At least for the near future, there will likely be many people restricted on where they can look for work.
Source: New York Times, Noncompete Clauses Increasingly Pop Up in Array of Jobs, Steven Greenhouse, June 8, 2014