Even if you didn't sign a noncompete agreement when you started your job, you still may need to know how to handle the issue if you're asked to sign one. More and more employers are using noncompete agreements to protect their interests. It's a wise business move for many in an age where "what you know" can be as valuable as "what you can do."
Your current employer may suddenly ask you to sign a noncompete agreement. Should you?
While you obviously have a good reason to want to keep your relationship with your employer positive, a noncompete agreement is a big deal (and you shouldn't let anyone tell you otherwise). Any agreement you sign has the potential to come back to haunt you if you decide to leave the company. It could impair your ability to make a living in your chosen field within a certain geographic range or for a certain period of time, which may drastically limit your employability.
Here are the things you need to consider before you sign:
1. What are you getting in return?
Your employer needs to offer you something of value in return for your agreement in order for the contract to be legitimate. You aren't getting anything if the noncompete is handed to you during your normal performance appraisal when you would ordinarily receive a raise. Make certain that what your employer is offering is actually worth the agreement.
2. Can you negotiate?
If you aren't be offered something fair in return for your signature, is your employer willing to negotiate? If not, you may want to start looking elsewhere for employment anyhow. The odds are high that your employer isn't valuing your services as he or she should.
3. Are the limitations reasonable?
You know your field. Are the limitations imposed by the noncompete reasonable to protect your employer's interest or do they seem somewhat designed to punish anyone who leaves the fold? If the limitations aren't something you can live with, don't sign.
4. Has an attorney reviewed the agreement?
You shouldn't even consider signing a contract that you haven't taken to an experienced business attorney for review. An attorney can help you determine if there are any red flags you need to examine and protect your interests better than you can do on your own.