When you start a job with a new company, you are likely feeling optimistic about what the future holds. You will certainly read over the employment contract, but you probably won't worry about special requirements like non-compete agreements. You may tell yourself that you intend to work for the company for a long time and therefore those agreements don't matter.
However, you later find a better-paying job or the company downsizes and eliminates your position. Now, you're looking for a job that pays you as much and helps you continue to advance your career. The only problem is the non-compete agreement with your former employer.
You may have signed a contract that really limits your ability to find work. If you are a New Jersey professional with a family to support, you may wonder what options you have for avoiding the enforcement of that contract.
If you don't do anything questionable, your former bosses may not care
Non-compete agreements primarily exist to protect companies from unscrupulous workers who will do things like take client lists or trade secrets from a company and sell them to competitors. Other times, people may take the information gleaned from a company and use it to start their own business.
Provided that you aren't engaging in either of those questionable practices, your former employer may never realize that you took another job in the same industry. That means they won't seek to enforce the agreement.
Other steps that you can take to protect yourself from reprisal could include not listing your new employer on your LinkedIn page or Facebook account and being very careful about what information you provide to acquaintances or friends who still work with your former employer.
Sometimes the courts will support your right to employment, if necessary
Occasionally, even if you aren't abusing the trade secrets or proprietary information you had access to with your previous job, your employer may still take umbrage with your new position at a different company. In that situation, it may be possible to go to court to push back against the non-compete agreement.
In general, employers need to offer some kind of reasonable compensation for such an agreement. Many times, they are included as part of the terms of your employment. However, if you had to sign the contract while still working for the company and received nothing in exchange, it may not be a valid contract. If the company did not put geographic or time limits on your inability to compete with their business, the courts may not uphold that contract either.
Bringing the document to an experienced New Jersey employment law and contract attorney can help you figure out what options you have when dealing with a restrictive non-compete agreement.