Ah, yes. The dreaded non-compete clause in an employment contract. Usually a couple of pages of stapled together legal jargon and far-fetched scenarios that require a signature at the bottom.
Something like this:
“For three years post-employment with Acme Car Dealership you may not be 300 square-meters from our competitor’s lot, unless we are all bought out by Maroone. Then and only then will you be able to enter the lot, but only to buy a used Chevy.”
So, does it really matter? Will they really hold us to it?
I don’t know. Everyone has a horror story or a non-horror story. These things are so subjective. It depends if the place is a mom and pop operation or a huge corporation. It depends if you were a good employee or not, how vengeful the employer is or is not. It’s a crap shoot really.
I’ve never been in a situation where I have violated my non-competes. But, my non-competes have always been like a courtesy. You know, to make me feel more important than I really am. Let’s be real, I’m in the communications field. Upper management will never tell me a trade secret. Sometimes it is hard enough to get a real statement, let alone a real, this-is-how-we-do-things secret.
And even if I had been in violation, no employer will go after me for it.
This is how it goes:
I sit there on my first day of work, in the HR lady’s office, all starry-eyed, with so much expectation and excitement and amazed at all of the paperwork: health insurance, life insurance, dental, vision, 401K matching, cafeteria plan, access key, keys to the office, alarm code, ID card and then, there it is, their way of saying, “Hey, we think you are important,” the non-compete form. Wow. This makes me the same as the CEO of Pepsi or Burger King or El Dorado Furniture. And other companies, other competing companies will want to steal me away, recruit me along with all of my…reporters? That’s right. Reporters. I know them. All three of them.
You see why it’s silly for me?
However, this thing becomes a nightmare for people who work directly with a company’s client base. Non-competes become a way of holding you in place and keeping other companies in check. Which, in my humble opinion, is a load of crap. What happened to healthy competition? Isn’t that the basis of capitalism?
If you have a talented employee and want to avoid losing them to the competition, wouldn’t you just make it really comfortable for them? Wow, that’s a great idea. Be good to the people who work for you. Too bad it is super expensive. More expensive than all of the legal fees they have to pay to get the non-compete written up and then, if violated, the legal fees and court costs for its enforcement. What a shame.
Your best bet is to have an open and honest conversation with your employer. Tell him/her you’re leaving for greener pastures and the company you’re leaving to is not interested in stealing anything. They just want to engage in some friendly competition.
And if that doesn’t work and they do indeed threaten to take legal action against you, reply with an invitation from court television shows like Judge Judy, Caso Cerrado or The People’s Court.