Using a Temporary Restraining Order to Enforce an Arlington Non-Compete Agreement

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Arlington is a major economic and government center for not just Virginia, but the Mid-Atlantic region as a whole. Some of the largest employers in Arlington County are major federal government departments and private industries, including those relating to national security and other professional services. As a result, it’s no surprise that many of the professionals in Arlington County are subject to a non-compete agreement.

Noncompete agreements are employment contracts (or specific provisions within a larger contract) that prohibit former employees from engaging in work that is in direct competition with the former employer. These non-compete agreements also specify how long the prohibitions last and the specific geographical region they are to be in effect. The purpose of noncompete agreements is to protect employers from departing employees who might unfairly use information or skills obtained on the job at a competing business.

When an employer in Arlington County believes one of its former employees is in violation of a non-compete agreement, it has several options. One of the most powerful and immediate legal remedies is a temporary restraining order, also commonly known by its abbreviation, TRO. To learn more about using a temporary restraining order to enforce an Arlington non-compete agreement, contact a seasoned lawyer at Spiggle Law Firm. 

Defining a TRO

A temporary restraining order is a type of preliminary injunction, which is a legal tool that attempts to preserve the status quo until a trial or other legal proceeding can take place. Basically, a TRO is a legal command from a court that tells a specific person or group to stop doing a particular thing until everything can be sorted out at a later time.

When a Court Will Issue a TRO

There are many reasons for using a temporary restraining order to enforce an Arlington non-compete agreement. A court will issue a TRO to enforce a non-compete agreement in Arlington County only when the party requesting it (the movant) can establish that it:

  • Is likely to win the underlying legal action
  • Will suffer irreparable harm should the TRO not be granted
  • Will come out ahead when balancing the equities of each side’s position
  • Granting the TRO would be in the public interest

See NVR, Inc. v. Nelson, No. 1:16-cv-1328, 2017 WL 631684 (E.D. Va. Feb. 14, 2017) (citing Winter v. Natural Res. Def. Council, Inc., 555 U.S. 7, 20 (2008)).

Part one refers to the primary legal proceeding resulting from the alleged violation of a non-compete agreement (which is usually is a breach of contract lawsuit). But until this breach of contract case can finish (which might takes months), the employer may suffer harm if the former employee continues working for a competitor or misappropriating information.

A court will not grant a TRO unless it believes the movant is likely to win the underlying lawsuit. This makes sense, as a court does not want to stop someone from working somewhere if the employer is filing a frivolous lawsuit. In essence, the party seeking the TRO must present a case within a case to show that it would probably win its breach of contract lawsuit.

The second part’s irreparable harm requirement is another way of saying that if a TRO is not granted, the movant will suffer actual and immediate harm that cannot be remedied at a later time. For example, a loss of money by itself is probably not going to constitute irreparable harm. This is because if the employer wins its underlying breach of contract lawsuit against the former employee, it can receive monetary damages to make it whole again. But if the harm might constitute the employer going out of business, then that will probably constitute irreparable harm because that is not something the court can fix after a trial.

Part three is a way of saying that the benefit of the TRO to the movant should outweigh any detriment it may impose on the nonmoving party. The movant will meet this third element if it can show that the harm it will suffer if the TRO is not granted is larger than the harm the nonmoving party will suffer if the TRO is granted.

The last element examines if granting the TRO in the particular instance is something that would benefit society and is consistent with the spirit of the applicable law. If an employer is seeking a TRO to hurt a competitor or the former employee, a court is unlikely to find a benefit to the public interest.

But if the TRO may stop an unscrupulous former employee from causing serious harm to a business in flagrant violation of a non-compete agreement, then an Arlington County court will probably find that issuing a TRO is in the public interest. Considering how powerful a TRO is, it is easy to see the extensive legal process an employer must go through to get one.

Consult an Attorney For More Information

Interested in potentially hiring an attorney to handle a temporary restraining order or to review your Arlington non-compete agreement? If so, please contact us for a no-cost online review of your case. One of our attorneys at Spiggle Law Firm can help you understand when using a temporary restraining order to enforce an Arlington non-compete agreement could come into play.

But if you do not think you are ready to speak with an attorney, feel free to check out our Resources Page where you will find numerous other no-cost resources like our Case Assessment Calculator.