A non-compete agreement is a legal document that many employers use to ensure that current or former employees do not compete with that employer’s business for a specified period of time after employment has been terminated. In other words, if you work for a real estate company and are asked to sign a non-compete agreement, the agreement may state that you cannot contact any of the clients from that real estate company should you go to work with another agency.

The agreement can restrict your contacting clients that you actually secured or it could limit who you can work for in the future. These agreements can be difficult to understand and they can make it very difficult to find employment should you or your employer terminates your current employment. Some courts however, do not willingly accept non-compete agreements so if you are asked to sign one, you may actually not need to do so.

Some states require that the employer offer something of value in exchange for signing a non-compete agreement. This is a legal contract and as such, you should get some sort of benefit in signing it. Many states agree that employment in and of itself is something of value but different states have different regulations where non-compete agreements are concerned. Some may require that the employer offer you a monetary benefit while others may simply accept your employment as the benefit.

In most states, a non-compete agreement can only last for a reasonable amount of time. In other words, an employer cannot ask you to sign an agreement that will last for the entire length of your career. A date must be included as to when the agreement ends and the actual amount of time that will be considered to be reasonable may depend on which state you are employed in. As a general rule, these agreements cannot last longer than three years but many require a lesser amount of time before you are free to pursue employment or become competition for your employer.

You should also note that geographic restrictions cannot be considered too broad. The main reason for having you to sign such an agreement is so that you will not be in direct competition with your current employer. The geographic restrictions that are included in the agreement must only keep you from competing in the specific area where your employer currently conducts his or her business. Your employer for instance cannot require you to sign an agreement that states you cannot conduct business in a neighboring county if your employer does not do business in that same county.

The laws regarding non-compete agreements can be difficult to understand and each state may have different regulations for these agreements. If you are asked to sign such an agreement, it is strongly advised that you speak with an employment attorney to ensure that you are not signing something that is completely unreasonable. An attorney can ensure that you and your employer are being fair when the agreement is drawn.

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