Over this past year I have had several clients who left a job and came to me because they had signed a non-compete agreement with their former employer. These individuals were concerned that the non-compete agreements they had signed would prevent them from getting new jobs. This concern was valid as non-compete agreements may be enforceable in Arizona depending on the facts of each case.
Courts analyze the enforceability of non-competes by looking mostly at the reasonableness of three main features of the provision: its duration; its geographic scope; and the activity it restricts. For instance, a non-compete might say that an employee cannot compete with her former employer for six months which is more likely to be enforced by a court than a five year limitation. Next, a non-compete might say that an employee cannot compete with the former employer within five miles of the former employer’s office which is more likely to be enforced by a court than if the non-compete says that the employee cannot work anywhere in the United States (and therefore the employee needs to move to another country to find work!). Finally, a non-compete that says for example that a pulmonologist cannot practice pulmonology for a certain time limit and in an certain area is more likely to be enforced than a non-compete that says the person cannot practice medicine in Arizona for the next year (and therefore that doctor has to enter a whole new field if he wants to stay in Arizona).
To know when the courts will or won’t enforce a non-compete agreement is not easy. Many clients think that a form used in one business will work for another – but that’s not the case. Because so much depends on the facts of each situation, if you are ever presented with a non-compete agreement or are an employer thinking about having an employee sign a non-compete agreement, you should strongly consider having an experienced employment lawyer review the agreement with you to determine the agreement’s strength and enforceability. Otherwise, you could end up in an unwanted lawsuit. At Hymson Goldstein & Pantiliat, PLLC, we have several lawyers that are well-versed and experienced in employment law and non-compete agreements who have argued appeals on this issue that can help you understand and avoid the pitfalls of such an agreement.