Non-Compete Agreement

Hi all,

I’ve been asked to sign a non-compete agreement and I was wondering what your experiences and thoughts are on this?

Any insight, particularly from those who have been around the design industry for awhile, would be great.


Was this for a full time job offer, freelance? What are the restrictions? How broad is it? How long?

Generally a non-compete will be specific to an industry and only for a full time position. Signing a non-compete should come with some sort of financial benefit to you, since you are giving up opportunity to work. For example, maybe if you are industry X, you cannot take a job in industry X for 9 months after employment by the company, but they will pay you a 4 month salary after the employment contract is over.


I realize I’m leaving a lot of details out, and that makes it a little difficult to thoroughly understand and comment. For the most part, it seems standard and fair.

However, my concern is the “cannot take a job in the industry” issue, which is a part of this one. If I want to leave on my own accord - i.e. offered a job at a competing company - I am not allowed to. This is what concerns me. Basically if I sign, for a period of a year I can’t work somewhere that competes with my company - and that seems to me to be very limiting. Essentially it erases all my accrued experience in my current industry. What are your thoughts?

What state? For example in CA not really enforceable.

What duration of time? 1 year is typical.

As said, the non-compete is usually weighed against the compensation package and opportunity. If you are at a very good salary + a bonus when you leave, then this mitigates the loss in opportunity of working for 1 year.

If it’s a good job with good compensation, the idea is that it will keep you there and if you do leave, you will still be better off and able to manage financially for the one year out of work in the industry.

Yes, as Yo said, also check your local legal situation. You might want to have a lawyer review the contract once you figure out the financial aspect.


Yeah 1 year it is. State is New York.

It comes with a financial increase but not enough to support a year. I’m confused by this notion that I wouldn’t be able to accept another job should one come up. Is that typical?

Lawyering up is probably a good idea. Another question … anyone know a good lawyer in New York for this type of thing?

Depends on how you and they define competitors. For example I had a 1 year non compete at Nike which I was fine with because I never thought I would work with another footwear company. The non compete specified footwear companies.

What industry is the company in? depending on how broad there product line is plays a factor. Have they listed the companies and or categories they are restricting you from working for? Also there should be a clause that stipulates if they let you go the contract is null and void. Most non-competes are extremely hard to enforce because by law an employer cannot prevent you from earning a living. This was big in the video game industry in Montreal CA. and when it went to court the companies lost hands down.

Many time companies will have employess sign things hoping that you will follow it, but when push comes to shove they can’t enforce it… Heck I even had one employer at a designer firm try to have me sign a non-compete with a list of companies i couldn’t do work for on the day he was laying me off because the firm was going under, he even had companies on the list that we hadn’t even done work for…

I kind looked at him and just smiled as i polity declined to sign.

I would avoid signing the non compete if it’s at all possible. They are designed to protect the interest of another company at your expense.

If you are signing it, make sure you crisply understand everything it states - otherwise you risk jeopardizing your career.

Thanks all for your feedback.

Ultimately I think you’re right Yo. The definition of competitor needs to be very precise, and at the moment it feels a bit broad - this is where my efforts will be focused.