Is there any way around a non-compete agreement?
I'm a dogwalker who is fed up with how my company is treating me. Most of my clients don't like how my boss handles them either. I want to take my favorite clients and start my own separate dog walking route. However when I first got this job I signed a non-compete agreement. I was wondering if any law savvy folks out there know of a possible loophole that I can use to protect myself from any legal action my boss might take against me if she finds out that I'm taking her clients.
I was thinking that perhaps if I bring signed statements from my clients saying that I didn't poach them from my boss, that they themselves sought me out, and they willingly without any coercion or courting wanted to use me as their dogwalker that I could deflect any legal action/cease and desist order brought against me. Let me know what you think.
OK. Here's the straight scoop.
It depends on the non-compete agreement. Technically, non-compete agreements violate antitrust laws. Courts do permit non-compete agreements so long as they're reasonable. (And that's a very vague issue, and will vary depending on circumstances and conditions.)
In the case of dog walking--where the service is very localized and doesn't involve large companies or huge amounts of money--something like a 3 month anti-compete agreement applicable to a 2-mile radius of the operations of the other company would probably (note the word "probably") be considered reasonable. On the other hand, a 2-year anti-compete agreement applicable to a 15-mile radius would not be considered reasonable.
So: Read the agreement and see what it provides.
The next issue is whether your (previous) employer would attempt to enforce the non-compete agreement, whether or not it's reasonable. Again, the answer is "maybe." You have to judge that.
Signed statements from clients carry no weight. If it says you won't compete for 2 months within a 1-mile radius, that's the agreement. Period. It doesn't matter how any clients--past or present--find you.
However, many employment agreements (not non-compete agreements) do contain language about not stealing current clients. If that's the only agreement you signed--that you wouldn't take current clients--then you're free to find new clients in the same neighborhood immediately. But it'd be risky to sign up a client who previously was served by the old company.
Best advice: If the non-compete agreement is reasonable (as I described above), obey it. If not, you can challenge it, but recognize that you might get sued, even though the non-compete agreement is not enforceable.
For more information, see a lawyer.
Hope that helps.
No. It's a valid agreement like any other. However, no one's going to spend tens of thousands in legal fees over the picayune crap.by Uncommon Sense - 6 months ago
I THINK uncommon s was referring to not what you will do but how you will do it; do not continue to service your old boss' clients but find new ones. Then, after x years, you may offer to service them [a non compete clause must have a time deadline to it or it is voidable.]
can guide you further
In legal slang, you're trying to "pierce the veil" -- you're looking for a way to get around a legal impediment. You really need a lawyer, who knows the laws of your state, and the way the courts have interpreted those laws in trial cases, to get the best answer.
Generally, unless the current employer has deep pockets, they won't challenge you, if you're not aking their clients away from them.
Read your non compete clause carefully -- if it says you won't "start a business", you might hire on as an "employee" of the clients, so that instead of you being a business which sells them dog walking service, you are instead an employee whose duties include walking of the dog, in addition to other duties like shopping, washing the car, etc. To be an employee, you must work specified hours for them, they must withhold income tax and social security taxes, must match social security, etc.
How long does the non compete clause run? Is it for a period of one year after leaving their employ? Is it only in effect if you quit voluntarily (if they fire you, does it still apply)? Perhaps you might do another type of work for a time, then start the dog walking business part time (after the non compete expires), and grow it into full time gradually.
The fact that you don't like the way they treat their employees and their clients isn't strong enough reason to allow you to ignore the clause.
Source(s)by Small Business Owner in TX - 6 months ago
If you (or the other answers) have any sense of ethics at all, you''ll either find another line of work or open up dog walking in another area entirely. You signed the contract, you're talking about breaking a legal agreement just because it's become inconvenient for you. What is it exactly you don't get? Without ethics you won't make it in business anyway.by John D - 6 months ago