Many employers require their new hires to sign a contract called a “non-compete agreement” as a condition of employment. Unfortunately, the decision to sign this contract is usually rushed or pressured; many new hires have neither the time nor legal counsel necessary to evaluate the fairness or legality of their non-compete agreement. Often, the bargaining power is balanced on the side of the new employer. Know your rights before signing a non-compete agreement.
For better or worse, new hires usually cannot envision leaving their new company and fail to plan for that occasion. Therefore, the best way to get out of your non-compete agreement is to have a skilled attorney review your non-compete agreement before you even sign it.
However, if you find yourself haunted by the specter of an old non-compete, the good news is that Wisconsin statutes set strict standards for what makes a non-compete agreement legally binding. A skilled attorney may be able to help you find a way out of yours.
Wisconsin Statute § 103.465 outlines the general rules for non-compete agreements. Wisconsin courts will only enforce a non-compete “if the restrictions imposed are reasonably necessary for the protection of the employer”.
Wisconsin case law further defines what restrictions are “reasonably necessary.” The non-compete must: 1) be necessary for the protection of the employer or principal; 2) provide a reasonable time limit (usually two years); 3) provide a reasonable territorial limit; 4) not be harsh or oppressive to the employee, and 5) not be contrary to public policy.
When an employee challenges the legality of a non-compete agreement, the employer has the burden of showing the court that the agreement is reasonable. This is important because if an employee can show that any one of the above five elements was not met, the non-compete agreement is illegal and of no effect.
The legality of a non-compete agreement is very fact-specific and unique to your contract, and there may be more legal rules that apply. You can always have your non-compete evaluated by a skilled and experienced attorney, there may very well be a way out.
Contact a Gingras, Thomsen & Wachs Lawyer for Help
Questions? Contact GTW Lawyers today to have your non-compete evaluated. Remember, the best time to evaluate your non-compete is before you sign it. Regardless, we’re here to help!