Overview: One type of employment contract is the noncompete agreement. A noncompete agreement prevents an employee from pursuing a similar profession or trade in competition against the employer (usually post-employment). Noncompetition agreements are used to discourage an employee from working for a competitor using the specialized knowledge, skills, or confidential information gained while working for the employer.
The majority of the states recognize and enforce various forms of noncompete agreements. Generally, the terms of a noncompete agreement will only be enforced to the extent necessary to protect the employer's legitimate business interests. Most states will enforce a noncompete agreement if contains reasonable limitations as to the geographical area and time period in which an employee may not compete with the employer.
Trends: Several states have either passed or are considering legislation that would change how noncompete agreements are regulated. For instance, Illinois became one of the first states to ban noncompetes for low-wage workers. Also, in 2016 several states enacted laws prohibiting physician noncompete agreements. Further, a few states have passed laws limiting the duration of noncompete agreements.
Author: Melissa A. Silver, JD, Legal Editor
Updated to reflect forthcoming noncompete law.
Updated to reflect forthcoming noncompete restrictions in Maine, New Hampshire and Rhode Island.
Updated to include employment agreement provisions in the forthcoming Oregon Workplace Fairness Act.
Updated to reflect law limiting the use of nondisclosure or confidentiality agreements regarding sexual assault claims, effective July 1, 2019.
Update to reflect law limiting the use of confidentiality agreements, effective July 1, 2019.
Updated to include retaliation protections in the forthcoming Westchester County Safe Time Leave Law.
Guidance for HR on the use of noncompete agreements to prevent employees from competing with the employer.