If so, how do you know if a covenant not to compete is enforceable?
Yes, non competition agreements are lawful in North Carolina. However, there are several specific legal requirements that must be met for a non-compete to be enforceable. You should consult with an attorney if you have been presented with a non-compete agreement or if you have concerns about a non-compete that you previously signed.
Kirk J. Angel is an experienced North Carolina licensed attorney who focuses his practice on employment law. Mr. Angel, who has focused on employment law for more than 15 years, represents clients throughout North Carolina and more information about him is available at www.theangellawfirm.com This response is for general informational purposes and does not constitute legal advice. Additionally, this response does not create an attorney client relationship. If you need legal advice, please contact a lawyer in your state who practices in the appropriate area.
It is not really accurate to say that a non-compete can ever be illegal per se. It really comes down to whether the courts of any given jurisdiction see a reason to enforce it. In CA, for example, they really will never do so between employees and employers but may do so in say the sale of a business or between business partners ( I guess some would say that they are illegal in CA and NY is not far behind).
Most states, and I believe NC as well, will enforce these so long as they are reasonable regards to the scope of time and geographic limitation. What is reasonable really depends on a number of factors and the specifc circumstances.
Keep in mind as well that a non-compete is NOT the same thing as a non-disclosure or non-use of trade secrets or non-solicitation of clients; these are much more likely to be enforceable given the right conditions.
If you are concerened, I suggest you discuss your situation in private with a lawyer. I will link you to some general info on this topic and most of us here, including myself, offer a free phone consult.
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They can be enforceable, depending upon the exact terms. You should speak with an attorney for more details.
T. Shawn Howard
The information provided should not be considered legal advice and does not create an attorney client relationship. I am not licensed to practice in any State other than North Carolina. The results of your case will depend on the presentation of evidence, the law and other factors that may change depending on an in depth analysis of the facts of the case. Please see an attorney before making legal decisions.