I am sorry to hear that you were laid off. The courts have often held that a non-compete agreement that is more than 6 months in duration is unreasonable, and so the agreement may not be enforceable. The fact remains though, that if you breach it you *could* get sued, and so you would have to go through the time and expense of defending yourself... so keep that in mind. Also, it really turns on whether the new position requires you to "solicit" customers from your old employer. If, for example, you're a hair dresser, and your old clients find out you are at a new salon and come see you to do their hair, you didn't really solicit anyone. If, on the other hand, you're an airplane salesman for Boeing, you get laid off, and you go and sell planes for Airbus, and you have to try to sell planes to the same airlines you sold Boeing planes too, then you would be soliciting.
I would suggest that you contact an Attorney to discuss this matter more fully. I don't think it would cost you more than $500, to have an attorney review your non-compete agreement, see whether it's valid, see whether the new position violate would cause you to violate it, etc...
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What you signed is referred to as a non-compete agreement and the terms of that agreement will govern what you can or cannot do with respect to former customers. If the agreement is unreasonable in time, scope or geography, it may be unenforceable but that is something a court would have to decide. You should consult an employment attorney for further assistance or information because without knowing all the facts and reviewing the agreement it is difficult to say what exactly you can or cannot do. Best of luck.
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I agree with my colleagues' answers. To be safe, I would consult an employment law attorney to review the specifics of the non-compete agreement and the term of your job offerto make sure they aren't in conflict. Most attorneys will provide this service at a very reasonable flat fee. Good luck!
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