Restrictive Covenants: Non-Compete versus Non-Solicitation

toates Business Law

Let’s imagine for a illustration purposes that you are a widget maker. Widget makers train for years to be certified in their field and they are highly compensated for their work. Once employed they use their widget making skills in lucrative careers where they build a client base and grow their widget making practice by working long hours and treating their customers well. Customer loyalty is high with widget makers.

Imagine our widget maker is just graduating from their post-graduate or other schooling and is newly out in the workforce looking for a job. They are offered their ideal job with Small Town Widget (a very well respected widget operation). It is close to home and is exactly the type of widget making work they have trained for. The compensation is good and the widget making job seems to be “in the bag.” Then the hiring manager presents the widget maker with a restrictive covenant containing non-compete and non-solicitation provisions. She has never seen one of these before, so she asks her graduate school friends and others in the widget making industry about the restrictive covenants. All seem to indicate that it is pretty normal practice in the widget making industry to be required to sign one before starting your new job.

From the hiring manager or owner’s perspective there are good reasons for requiring a restrictive covenant.  They don’t want you to build a rapport with the customers or clients and then move next door and compete against them.  Also, they don’t want you building a working relationship with the other employees of the business and taking them with you when you go off on your own. Our widget maker is concerned about the terms of the restrictive covenant which disallow her from widget making for a period of two (2) years after the termination of her employment in a geographic area defined as a five (5) mile radius from any Small Town Widget operation.

Our widget maker rightly questions her ability to take her widget making skills somewhere else.  Small Town Widget has offices all over the surrounding three counties. She is worried that if her employment ends with Small Town Widget she won’t be permitted to obtain another job within 100 miles from her home. She calls her attorney and seeks some advise.

Now imagine that widget maker is a doctor, dentist, CPA or other working professional. Employers like Small Town Widget have a vested interest in obtaining a restrictive covenant from their employees or independent contracts. However, if Small Town Widget is hiring her to bring her training and skills to their office, their only concern should be their customers and employees and less about her going out next door and opening a competing business. After all, there are lots of widget making offices scattered throughout the area, but if she can’t solicit the customers or employees of Small Town Widget, then what concern is it of the Small Town Widget office to keep her from working within the restricted area?

Restrictive covenants, non-competes and non-solicitations, are a practice area that the attorneys at Law Offices of Oates & Oates, P.A. have much experience. Whether you are the employer or employee, you should seek the advice of knowledgeable and experienced counsel before hiring new employees or signing a restrictive covenant. Please contact our offices to discuss how we might be able to assist you.