Non-Compete Lawyers in Cleveland, Ohio
Non-compete laws in Ohio can be a little tricky to navigate as these agreements tend to have a lot of complicated factors involved. If you have signed a non-compete agreement with your employer and are wondering if it is enforceable or reasonable, you have come to the right place. This article will serve as a basic guide to some of the non-compete factors considered in the state of Ohio, but given that these cases are very circumstantial, you should seek a non-compete attorney in Cleveland to fully understand your specific case.
Non-compete agreements between employers and employees have been used in Ohio courtrooms more times than you might suspect. Some assume that non-compete agreements or clauses are not truly enforceable, but that would be a misconception that can lead you right to a legal battleground. The basis for which a court would determine your case is based on the following principles:
- Trade Secrets – According to the Uniform Trade Secrets Act, a trade secret is defined as the methods, techniques, or processes that help an organization gain economic viability and prosperity.
- Protected or Confidential Material – This type of information typically refers to information or documentation that a business, company, or organization would like to keep out of the eyes of the general public or competitor. This information may have something to do with business practices, leadership, structure and other operational aspects of a business entity.
- Client or Customer Relationships – When it comes to non-compete agreements and customer relationships, this typically means that a business wants to protect the relationships they have built with a customer as well as the techniques in obtaining those customers.
In a survey done on all U.S. states regarding competition and law, the survey found that employers exercised their non-compete agreements using the following criteria. (Found at faircompetitionlaw.com)
- Not greater than necessary to protect the employer’s legitimate business interests; no undue hardship to the employee.
- Not injurious to public interest. Considerations: absence or presence of limitations as to time and space; whether the employee is sole contact with the customer
- Employee’s possession of trade secrets or confidential information.
- Purpose of restriction (elimination of unfair competition vs. ordinary competition and whether seeks to stifle employee’s inherent skill and experience.)
- Proportionality of benefit to the employee as compared to the detriment to the employee
- Other means of support for the employee.
- When an employee’s talent was developed; whether forbidden employment is merely incidental to the main employment.
Validity of Non-Compete Agreements in Cleveland
Non-compete Agreements are a way for employers to protect themselves and their businesses from the ideas and concepts that helped build their businesses. These agreements protect the investments that went into building the business itself and acquiring the talent to bring the vision to life.
These factors alone make non-compete agreements incredibly valid for Cleveland based businesses and employers. Violating this agreement on the part of an employee could land both parties in a courtroom seeking monetary damages and cease and desist orders. An employer looking to enforce a non-compete agreement will likely pursue protections no greater than their sole business interest without harming the livelihood of the employee.
Employee Defense of Violating Non-Competes
To make a case for not following a non-compete agreement, an employee will need to prove how unreasonable the agreement is, or that it somehow negatively impacts the public. A Cleveland non-compete lawyer can help gather the appropriate information and materials to support a non-compete case. These cases can be incredibly complex and may require a significant amount of research in order to prove it is a hardship on the employee.
Another defense for an employee is to have a non-compete agreement lawyer in Cleveland make a case for how unreasonable the time period within the agreement is. Most non-compete agreements are enforced by a specific time frame that can be seen as unreasonable by the court and support a case against the non-compete contract.
In addition, non compete agreements are limited to a reasonable geographic location. These can vary by each industry. If there is no geographic limit in the agreement, then there is a strong argument the agreement may be found invalid.
Finally, the most important defense is to determine whether you are actually competing with your old employer in the new job. This is often overlooked, but can be an effective defense if you were engaged in a different business than your prior employer.
Unfortunately, in Ohio, even if a non-compete agreement is deemed unreasonable in a courtroom, the employer may have grounds to change or modify the agreement that will still prevent an employee from seeking work with a competitor. A Cleveland non-compete attorney is armed with uncovering unreasonable demands by an employer so the individual has the right to pursue employment for the sake of their livelihood. These can be very small details unbeknownst to an employee that might not know what constitutes an unreasonable agreement.
Re-Negotiate a Non-Compete
Another way of looking at an undesirable non-compete agreement is to see it as a chance to renegotiate your employment. This might be one of the easier ways to handle a contract without taking your employer to court. A non-compete attorney in Cleveland can help you renegotiate that contract and avoid a legal battle that neither party truly desires.