Connecticut businesses are increasingly asking employees to sign non-compete agreements. These contracts protect the company’s trade secrets and other proprietary information employees may learn while working for them. Non-competes are legal in Connecticut, but courts will not enforce them if they are improperly drafted. If your company uses one of these agreements, let a business lawyer at Aeton Law Partners review it. Call us today.
The Basics of Non-Compete Agreements
Sometimes called non-competition agreements, these contracts prevent employees from working for competitors after leaving a business. They are also used to prevent a former employee from starting a competing business. A non-compete agreement generally lasts for a specific amount of time and applies to a specific geographic area. It may be part of a broader employment contract or may be a separate, independent contract.
Employers use these agreements to restrict employees from taking what they learned on the job and using it against them. It’s a way to protect a company’s trade secrets and other confidential information.
Will Courts Enforce Non-Compete Agreements?
Courts in Connecticut will only enforce non-competes to the extent they are “reasonable.” Courts often frown upon such contracts because they severely restrict the ability of former employees to earn a living. Before a court will enforce a non-compete, it will closely scrutinize the agreement to determine if it is reasonable.
In making that determination, the court will consider the following criteria:
- How long is the employee restricted from working for a competitor? As a general rule, the longer the restriction, the more difficult it is to convince a judge to uphold it. An indefinite duration will almost never be enforced.
- What is the geographic area covered by the non-compete? Again, an indefinite limitation – or disallowing a worker to be employed anywhere – won’t be enforced. The larger the area covered by the non-compete, the less likely it is to withstand scrutiny.
- Does the agreement prevent the worker from earning a living? Or does it prevent the employee from pursuing his or her occupation? If the answer to either is yes, the non-compete might not be upheld.
- Is the protection offered to the former employer fair? In other words, what are the former employer’s interests in upholding the non-compete? And how do they weigh against the former employee’s interests?
- Is the public interest harmed by the non-compete agreement? Generally, the public benefits from having more businesses and employees serving it.
If the non-compete agreement is unreasonable on the basis of any of these, the entire contract will be invalidated. Courts, in striking down such contracts, often focus on their duration and geographic area. They are also concerned when employers compel rank-and-file workers to sign them. Unlike executives, these individuals usually do not have access to proprietary company information like trade secrets. Therefore, the non-compete is typically viewed as punitive in nature or an unfair attempt to control the labor market.
How We Can Help
Aeton Law Partners understands Connecticut law with respect to non-compete agreements. We know what courts look for in determining whether to enforce them. Our firm can help your business draft and execute agreements that are likely to be upheld in the courts.
We can also help your company take legal action against a former employee who has violated your non-compete agreement. Companies have the right to protect their legitimate business interests, and that includes asking courts to uphold non-competes. If a former employee has violated its agreement with you, talk to us about pursuing legal action.
Do you have questions about non-compete contracts? To learn more about them, reach out to Aeton Law Partners. We are here to advise you as to all your Connecticut business law needs. Call today!