Employment Law Questions? Ask an Employment Lawyer.
I'm Lucy, and I'd be happy to answer your questions today.
The default rule in the law is that one party's breach of a contract gives the other party a right to sue for damages but does not automatically nullify the entire agreement. You would need a judge to find that their breach of the agreement was so egregious that it excuses your obligation to perform. One example would be if they fired you in bad faith. If you had to leave because they in bad faith failed to pay you, that's another argument, but you'd need to go to court first to have the agreement dissolved before beginning to work elsewhere. Alternatively, you could ask your new employer to negotiate a settlement with the employer or you could try to buy out the non-compete.
A non-compete agreement must be reasonable in time and scope before it can be enforced. A ten year limitation would probably not be considered reasonable, and most courts would not enforce it unless it was extremely limited in scope (for example, if you were only prohibited from working for one other company or only over a few square miles). Note than when a covenant not to compete is unreasonable, the judge has discretion to amend it. So a court could reduce the period you're not allowed to work for a competitor.
If you have any questions or concerns about my response, please reply WITHOUT RATING. It's important that you are 100% satisfied with my courtesy and professionalism. Otherwise, please rate my service positively so I am paid for the time I spend answering questions. If you are on a mobile device, you may need to scroll to the right. There is no charge for follow-up questions. Thank you.
Do you have any other questions about this?