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Five Q&As about non-compete agreements

Getting a good education is only the first step towards professional development. Those who are looking to expand their career often benefit from on-the-job training, learning skills while working within their field. Workers will often take these skills and apply them as they move forward in their careers.

Unfortunately, this tried and true method of career development has been put to the test in recent years with the increased use of non-compete agreements. This is particularly true for those who consider moving on to a different employer. These agreements can make it very difficult for workers to move on within their field as they can limit a worker's employment options.

What exactly is a non-compete agreement? This agreement is one that is designed to prevent those who sign from taking a position with a business that the employer would consider a competitor. The agreement generally includes a description of the type of competition that qualifies and how long the agreement lasts.

It is designed to help ensure trade secrets do not leave a company. Generally, the agreements must be reasonable. One that is viewed as overbroad or lasting for too long is not likely to withstand a court challenge.

How common are these agreements? According to a recent piece by the United States Department of Labor (DOL), approximately 30,000 Americans have signed a non-compete. The DOL states that these agreements are much too common.

What do federal agencies think about these contracts? The DOL has voiced concerns that new methods should be put into use to stop the negative effect of non-compete agreements stifling workers' mobility.

In fact, the DOL joined the White House and Department of Treasury to call for the reform of non-compete agreements.

How are these agreements abused? One commonly used example of non-compete agreement abuse involves Jimmy Johns.

The sandwich making company used agreements that required their sandwiches makers refrain from finding employment at other stores that sold sandwiches. This was criticized as overly broad and unnecessary. After an investigation by the New York Attorney General, the business ceased using the documents and stated that they were void.

How can workers protect themselves? Employees who are wondering if a proposed or already signed non-compete agreement keeps them from finding other forms of employment can have the document reviewed by an attorney. This legal professional will help you determine if the contract is valid and can help you fight it so you can seek employment elsewhere.

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