You should consult in person with an employment lawyer, so that you can share the contract itself and explain your situation in detail. I can share with you that New Jersey courts will enforce agreements not to compete if they are reasonable. In determining whether an agreement is reasonable, courts consider various factors, including: (1) the employer’s legitimate interest, (2) hardship on the employee, (3) scope and duration of the restriction, (4) harm to the public, and (5) consideration. In many cases, the employer has required the employee to sign a non-compete merely to prevent normal competition, which is not a legitimate reason. Even when the employer has a legitimate interest to protect, the non-compete provision is often too broad in terms of duration and geographic scope. Good luck.
Review the contract you signed - does it say that the parties have agreed that CA law governs? If so then CA governs, even if you work in NJ. A NJ court can apply CA law if the parties and the court is bound to do so.
Avvo doesn't pay us for these responses, and I'm not your lawyer just because I answer this question or respond to any follow-up comments. If you want to hire me, please contact me. Otherwise, please don't expect a further response. We need an actual written agreement to form an attorney-client relationship. I'm only licensed in CA and you shouldn't rely on this answer, since each state has different laws, each situation is fact specific, and it's impossible to evaluate a legal problem without a comprehensive consultation and review of all the facts and documents at issue.
Before I respond to your inquiry, I must state that we have not spoken, I have not reviewed the relevant documents and facts, and I do not represent you. Therefore, my discussion below is not a legal opinion, but is informational only. Finally, my discussion applies only to issues to which Pennsylvania, New Jersey or Federal law apply, unless otherwise specified.
That being said, New Jersey courts will enforce noncompetes from other states; however, California has very strict laws that prohibit most noncompetition agreement from being effective. One of the major issues is which state's law will govern.
I've had situations like yours in which the end client would never do business again with the former employer from whom it hired an employee; in that case, there is an argument that the former employer has no legitimate business interest in enforcing the noncompete, and it is not valid.
These are all VERY fact-speciific issues, however, and you should speak with an attorney ASAP to determine the best course of action.
If you would like to discuss this matter further, please feel free to contact me at the below address(es) or telephone number.
/Christopher E. Ezold/
The Ezold Law Firm, P.C.
One Belmont Avenue,
Bala Cynwyd, PA 19004