Is a non-compete still valid if I only worked during a probationary period? I started a new job, and worked for 3 weeks before I quit. They promised a lot and delivered very little. Now they are trying to keep me from earning a living. All I have done for the past 18 years is advertising sales. I just started another job in Needham where the former job was in a different region. Will Massachusetts courts enforce the non-compete?
Your question is difficult to answer without a knowing more facts and the courts will weigh the circumstances of your case based upon a number of criteria. In particular, a noncompetition agreement is enforceable in Massachusetts if the agreement is (1) supported by consideration; (2) necessary to protect a legitimate interest of the employer, and (3) is reasonable as to its duration and geographic scope. Massachusetts law has held that a noncompetition agreement executed prior to or at the commencement of employment is supported by consideration. If you signed the non-compete at the beginning of your work it is probably supported by consideration. In order for a non-compete to be enforceable it must also protect the employers legitimate business interests. “Legitimate business interests” to be protected by a non-competition agreement include: (a) trade secrets; (2) confidential information; and (3) good will acquired through dealings with customers. As you quit during your probationary period, you likely did not have access to this information and you can attempt to argue that the non-compete is not enforceable because it does not protect a legitimate business interest. Finally, a covenant not to compete must be “reasonable” in its duration and geographic scope. As you have stated that your former job was in a different region, you could argue that the covenant not to compete is not reasonable in geographic scope as the former job was in a different region. This would be particularly compelling if your former employer does not do business in your new region and has not attempted to do business there. Good luck.
The Needham Employment Law Attorneys at Goldman & Pease provide legal representation for all business related matters in Needham, Massachusetts and the surrounding communities including Newton, Brookline, Dedham, Westwood, Dover, Wellesley, Weston and the entire Boston Metrowest region.