Non-compete agreements between employers and employees are often the subject of dispute in many Illinois litigations. Therefore, it is important that your attorney be very familiar with case law regarding these agreements, as well as the tendency of Illinois courts to rule one way or the other.
Most basic non-compete agreements stipulate that an employee is barred from working with a competitor of the company for a specified period of time, usually one year. In addition, it may also include a non-solicitation provision, which means that the employee also cannot solicit or directly advertise to customers of the previous employer for that same period of time. Employees can sometimes sign a non-compete agreement flippantly, with the assumption that it would never actually be enforceable in court. However, it is, though there are some specific considerations an employer in Illinois should consider.
First, there must be some form of “valuable consideration” to the agreement. A court will not side with an employer based simply on a signature with no value. Second, though not an official rule, two years of employment seems to be the guideline by which many Illinois courts deem a non-compete to be officially violated. Third, the Illinois Freedom to Work Act prohibits non-compete agreements from any employee who is making $13.00 or less. Finally, though also not an official rule, courts will tend to side with an employee if the non-compete agreement is “hidden” or “buried” inside of an employee agreement. It should be a separate document that is clearly being executed.
These litigations can become complex and drawn out. The best thing an employer can do when an employee has violated a non-compete agreement is to consult with a business attorney who can look at the facts, apply reason, and determine whether litigation is worth pursuing.