When an Overly Broad Alexandria Non-Compete Agreement Is Unenforceable
If you work in Alexandria or any other part of Virginia, you may have come across a non-compete agreement. If you have not had the opportunity to review or sign one of these employment contracts, their purpose is pretty straightforward.
A non-compete agreement bars a former employee from working for certain new employers for a set period of time and within a specific geographical area. Who these new employers are, how long the noncompete agreement will be in effect and where the non-compete agreement may be enforced will all depend on the specific language of the contract. But regardless of what the terms of the agreement are, they must be reasonable and clear.
What makes a term in a non-compete agreement in Alexandria ambiguous and/or unenforceable? An employer learned the answer to that question the hard way when it tried to enforce an overly broad non-compete agreement on a former employee in the following court case. For more information about when an overly broad Alexandria non-compete agreement is unenforceable, contact a seasoned lawyer at Spiggle Law Firm.
Nortec Communication v. Lee-Llacer
Carl Lee-Llacer began working for Nortec Communications, Inc. as a consultant in 2006. At the time, Nortec was in the business of providing consulting services in the information technology industry.
As a condition of employment, Mr. Lee-Llacer signed an employment contract that contained a non-compete provision. This provision barred Mr. Lee-Llacer from working with any of Nortec’s former or current clients if the new job relates to the products or services offered by Nortec.
After working for Nortec for about 20 months, Mr. Lee-Llacer resigned and began working for one of the Nortec’s clients. Nortec claimed that he was continuing work on a project he started at Nortec and that it required the use of Nortec’s work product. Nortec then sued Mr. Lee-Llacer, alleging, among other things, that he was in violation of his non-compete agreement.
The Virginia court sided with Mr. Lee-Llacer with respect to the non-compete agreement and refused to enforce it. But how did it reach this decision on whether Mr. Lee-Llacer appeared to be in violation of the non-compete agreement? Because the language of the agreement was unclear, there, it was a perfect example of when an overly broad non-compete agreement is unenforceable.
Ambiguity = Overly Broad = Unenforceable
Virginia law is clear that a non-compete agreement may only restrict the former employee if they work in a job with the same (or at least primarily the same) job duties as his or her old job. This makes sense, as the former employer is unlikely to need protection from a former employee who will be working in a completely different industry or occupation. So if a non-compete agreement is ambiguous in a way such that it might apply to someone who is working in a different job with different job duties, a court in Alexandria will usually refuse to enforce it due to overbreadth.
In Mr. Lee-Llacer’s case, the court concluded that his non-compete agreement was overbroad because it did not specify what constituted a Nortec product or service. This lack of clarity meant the non-compete agreement could theoretically be enforced against Mr. Lee-Llacer even if his new job did not require the use of knowledge and skills from Nortec and had nothing to do with his former position there. As a result of ambiguity in the non-compete agreement, the Virginia court deemed it to be overbroad and therefore, Nortec could not enforce it against Mr. Lee-Llacer.
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