Non-competition agreements in Ohio - What Professionals Need to Know

posted by Neil E. Klingshirn | July 05, 2023 in Noncompetes/Trade Secrets

Today, non-competition agreements, also known as non-competes, are everywhere, especially for professionals. These legal contracts seek to prevent professionals from starting a competing business or working for a competitor within a certain period of time and geographical area after leaving their current employer. Ohio, like many states, allows non-competes, although their enforceability often depends on the reasonableness of their terms.

Non-competes can pose significant limitations on professional mobility, hindering individuals from advancing their careers. While they cost employers nothing to get, escaping them comes at a high cost to professionals, who may have to incur thousands of dollars in legal fees just for the chance to ask a judge to reduce or eliminate their restrictions.

Just Say No

Given this, professionals should not rely on judicial discretion freeing them from a non-compete at the end of their employment. Instead, the wisest approach is to tackle the terms of the agreement before signing. First, if possible, consider saying "no" to non-competes altogether. Although you risk losing the opportunity at hand, the non-compete’s future costs may well exceed the benefit of landing that job, especially if similar positions are available that do not require non-competes.

Propose A Shorter Time and Range

If signing a non-compete is unavoidable, the next step is to bargain on its terms. Reducing the time period and geographical scope can limit the potential disruption to your career progression. For example, if a non-compete would prohibit you from working in a similar role within a 50 mile radius for two years, propose a more reasonable range and time limit, such as a 10 miles and one year. To support your proposal for a shorter range, demonstrate that the average distance customers will drive is less than that.

Carve Out Your Clients

Additionally, push for increased severance pay during the non-competition period. If you're prevented from working in your profession for a certain duration, it's only fair that you're adequately compensated during that time. Last, propose exceptions for clients and experience that you bring to the professional relationship.

In conclusion, non-competition agreements come at the expense of an individual's professional mobility. Avoid these contracts if you can, approach them with caution when you must, and summon the courage to negotiate for fair terms. For Ohio professionals facing non-competes, we recommend that you consult with an employment attorney. Remember, you hold the right to negotiate for your career, and saying "no" or pushing for fairer terms in non-competes can pay huge dividends when (not if) your employment ends.


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