Is My Noncompete Agreement Enforceable If I Move Out Of State?

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When I wrote about How Do I Get Out Of My Noncompete Agreement?, AOL Jobs readers came to me with lots of questions. Last week I answered whether your noncompete is enforceable if you're fired without cause. This week, I answer:

Is My Noncompete Enforceable If I Move Out Of State?

This question may be too far-reaching for you to answer out of hand, but my question is this, I have a noncompete agreement with a company that is subject to the governing law of the State of Ohio. What if I should move out of Ohio and take a position with a company that is also out of the State of Ohio, is the agreement still valid?

If you move to California, the answer is probably no. California doesn't enforce most noncompete agreements. If Massachusetts bans them, you may be safe soon if you move there. In any other state, it will depend on the agreement and what you did. Here are some factors that may affect your noncompete obligations if you move out of state:
  • Geographic area in agreement: Noncompetes are supposed to be limited to the geographic area necessary to enforce any legitimate interest of the employer. If your agreement says that the geographic area you can't compete in is 15 miles from your employer, a specific county or city, or the State of Ohio, then you're in luck.
  • Overbroad: If the agreement applies nationwide, worldwide, or universe-wide, then the company will have to prove a legitimate interest to protect in the new geographic area you choose. For instance, if you were a salesperson whose territory covered Ohio, Michigan and Indiana, they may be able to enforce against you in those areas. If, however, you had no contact with any Indiana customers, no access to Indiana customer lists or information, you may be able to move to Indiana.
  • Antitrust: Remember, the laws allowing non-competition agreements are an exception to antitrust laws, which say you can't have agreements that limit competition. Capitalism and entrepreneurship are the American way, so you can't have a noncompete agreement solely for the purpose of preventing competition. Your employer will need to prove a legitimate interest, like trade secrets or customer goodwill, in order to enforce any noncompete agreement.
If you are getting ready to leave your employer and move to another state, you should talk to an employment lawyer in your state about your rights regarding your non-competition obligations.

If you need legal advice, it's best to talk to an employment lawyer in your state, but if you have general legal issues you want me to discuss publicly here, whether about discrimination, working conditions, employment contracts, medical leave, or other employment law issues, you can ask me at AOL Jobs. While I can't answer every question here, your question might be featured in one of my columns, or in an upcoming live video chat.
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