TexLawyer : Good morning. I'll be assisting you with your question.
TexLawyer : There are a few things to look at here. First off, non-compete clauses are not in-and-of-themselves illegal in Georgia. However, they can be voided, depending on how they are applied in any given situation.
Waiting to hear from you
TexLawyer : First off, a law in Georgia passed in 2010 significantly changed the landscape of how the courts interpret non-compete clauses. Non-compete clauses under 2 years are presumed to be valid. This is important to you because, obviously, yours is longer than that.
TexLawyer : Second, the courts now have the power to enforce an agreement in part (previously, if part of the contract was void, the entire thing was voided).
What is my next step to find out if all aspects are legal?
TexLawyer : There are a few things to look at. First off, to what extent does the contract define the geographic area you are restricted from working in?
TexLawyer : Is the conract clear on that issue?
TexLawyer : To be valid, the contract give specific limitations upon scope of activity, duration, or territory you are prohibited from working in.
TexLawyer : If it isn't, you have 30 days to request clarification. If your employer doesn't respond, the judge can consider their lack of response in determining if it is valid or not.
There are no geographic area shown at all in the contract.
TexLawyer : You should seek claification as I've described above. If they don't respond, that will be damaging to their case if you have to bring them to court. Courts have consistently held that non-compete clauses that don't restrict a person to a certain region are invalid. That should take care of the non-compete part regarding where you can work. The second part is contacting clients on the books. That part is not subject to a geographic limitation. You may be able to get that limited to 2 years, however, since that he the presumed valid time restriction.
I have already left the firm and at this time really do not want to go back to them for any further clafication. Please give me your best feeling at this time so I will know how to proceed with my future.
TexLawyer : You basically have two options:
TexLawyer : First, you can ignore the restriction and wait for them to bring suit. At that point, you will have the opportunity to litigate whether or not the clause is enforceable. The danger in doing so is that they could sue you for damages and recover money from you, if, for example, you took clients from them in violation of the clause.
TexLawyer : Second, you can bring suit on your own to strike down the clause, or at least clarify its restrictions. The downside to doing that is you may be bringing an issue to their attention they would have otherwise not pursued. In other words, they may have let it go if you went out and did business now, instead of waiting the three years.
TexLawyer : Your last option (I know I said there were two, but I'd like to throw this one in as well) would be to negoiate a more acceptable clause with them now. They may be willing to reduce the length of time to 18 months or two years (or less) in order to avoid potential litigation.
TexLawyer : As far as which of those to pursue, I would start with the third option and, if that doesn't work, decide what level of risk you want to take regarding the first two.
Thank you for your apinions. This will complete my communication.
TexLawyer : Glad to help.