As many professional in New York have already discovered, some businesses require their employees to sign a non-competition agreement as a condition for employment. Such agreements prevent employees from contributing to a business' competitors in a given industry for a duration of time stipulated in the agreement. This time period may extend beyond the employees tenure with the business.
In most cases, this type of agreement is used to protect proprietary information. Legal enforcement of the agreement depends on the applicable state laws, which are not uniform across the country. When disputes arise, courts may review the agreement to determine if the employer's need to shield proprietary information is fairly balanced by the employee's ability to work. In addition, courts often rule in a way that indicates the geographical scope of the non-competition agreement should be reasonable.
Recently, New York officials initiated an investigation into the non-compete agreement to which Jimmy John's, a Illinois-based business with a national chain of eateries, subjects its employees. State officials requested that New York franchisees turn over these agreements, along with employee job descriptions, for review. Officials reportedly suspect that the non-compete agreements presented to Jimmy John's employees are inconsistent with New York law, citing a purported limit the eatery places on employees' ability to work after leaving Jimmy John's
The restrictions stipulated in the contracts between employers and those who work for them may not violate basic employee rights, as articulated by state and federal laws. Many employees are not fully cognizant of these rights when signing into a non-competition agreement with a particular business. An attorney may assist workers recognize and respond to instances where an employment contract violates of their rights, challenging the validity of the agreement in civil court.
Source: TheHuffingtonPost.com, "New York Attorney General Goes After Jimmy John's Over Noncompete Agreements", Dave Jamieson , December 22, 2014