You've Been Sued: Four Steps for Handling a Non-Compete Dispute

One job ends, and you would like to start a new job. But as the new job begins, the former employer files a lawsuit regarding a non-compete clause.

Unfortunately, this situation arises more often than it should. A lot of times, the non-compete language will be very broad, both in distance and in time. Employees and executives do have some options in dealing with – or avoiding – these issues.

First, hire an employment attorney to help resolve these issues. This area of law is fairly broad, nuanced, and constantly evolving. An experienced attorney in this area of law is critical to resolving these issues. An attorney can help fight the lawsuit, or help negotiate a practical solution to the problem.

Second, determine which parts of the non-compete are enforceable. Courts scrutinize these clauses, and might not enforce a completely overbroad non-compete. Theses clauses can be overbroad both in terms of time and geographic area.

Third, negotiate with the former employer to try to resolve everything as efficiently as possible. Non-compete disputes can be expensive for all parties, so everyone has an incentive to resolve these issues sooner rather than later.

Finally, be proactive. The best way to avoid non-compete disputes is to negotiate these issues at the start of the first job. Often, non-compete language is an afterthought in a contract. Negotiating a reasonable non-compete when starting a job is an easy way to save a lot of hardship – and money – later on.