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Can you get out of a noncompete agreement?

Noncompete agreements have become par for the course in many industries as employers seek to protect their trade secrets and investments.

Naturally, employees don’t love them. A noncompete agreement can seriously limit your job prospects and your career if you want to move on.

So, is there any way to get out of a noncompete agreement that turns out to be more troublesome than you anticipated?


Here are some potential options you can explore with an attorney who is experienced in contract disputes:

Is the noncompete agreement unreasonably broad or long?

Noncompete agreements have to be limited in length and breadth in order to be enforceable. The knowledge you carry, for example, of your employer’s next tech improvement isn’t likely to be that useful a year from now with the way that the tech industry changes — so anything longer than a year would likely be unreasonable. Similarly, if you’re a baker, you probably wouldn’t be a threat to your former employer if you opened another bakery 500 miles away in another state.

Does the noncompete agreement actually serve a legitimate business interest?

In order to be enforceable, noncompete agreements have to serve a legitimate need. Some employers just jumped on the bandwagon and had every employee they hired sign a noncompete agreement “just in case,” without really considering whether that was necessary. If your departure doesn’t really jeopardize your employer’s position in any way, there’s no reason to enforce the agreement.

Did your employer breach your contract?

Your employer can’t hand you your walking papers in violation of your contract and then expect you to comply with a noncompete agreement. If your employer failed to adhere to all of the terms of your agreement, you may be off the hook.

These aren’t your only possible options. Sometimes, you can even negotiate a release with your former employer that will work for you both. Learn more about your options before you make your next move