I have been contacted by a client I worked for with my previous company with a job offer. However, I have a 1 year No Compete clause and with 6 months more to go I'm in a tough situation. The two things I do not want to do are the legal side of this - challenge the contract or break it. The client is in Florida, where (meaningless considering my desired approach) no compete clauses are regularly enforced in court.

Instead, I wonder how, or if there is much precedent, to contact my previous employer and nullify this part of the contract. I left on good terms and feel like this is my best, perhaps only, course of action. Obviously there are legal aspects to consider even with this approach, but on this site I'm asking: What sort of precedent is there for this kind of request and if so is there a convention to follow?

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    It matters where in the world you are. legal advice here is worth what you pay for it... en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Non-compete_clause may give you clues. – Loofer Nov 18 '15 at 16:23
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    There are too many variables at play for a universal answer to have any sort of meaning. You're asking for precedent in dealing with (parts of) a legal instrument so this is the wrong site to ask. Consider asking on Law SE instead. – Lilienthal Nov 18 '15 at 16:29
  • Are you sure you'll actually be competing with your old company? Will you be providing the same services as them? Will you be providing competition? Or will you simply be working in a slightly different role for one of their clients? The latter is perhaps not ideal for other reasons, but is not necessarily competing – Jon Story Nov 18 '15 at 16:54
  • The problem with asking your former employer is that they will absolutely know that you are working for one of their clients, whereas if you started working for the client without telling them, they may not find out. The likelihood of your previous employer finding out that you are working for one of their clients should be factored into your decision. Also, does the company providing the offer know about the non-compete? – silencedmessage Nov 18 '15 at 17:48
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    These are topics and areas of the law that our experts can be expected to know. There is no questions of what should the OP do which would be legal advice, but just what are the ways to deal with this common workplace issue. This question is on topic and not asking for legal advice. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Nov 18 '15 at 19:29

The easiest solution is to request of your former company that they release you from your Non-compete to work for your new company. Unless they have work for you or they have a legitimate reason for prohibiting your employment at the new company then they are likely to grant you the release.

Should your company refuse, many jurisdictions consider that a company that does not have work for you, as to have released its non-compete, but you will want to check with a lawyer to make sure that is true in your situation. Many lawyers will do an initial consultation for free, just indicate that should your company pursue you for damages, you will retain the lawyer to fight the charges.

Some reasons that will hold up are if you received a severance package or other compensation that included the non compete, then this is often upheld. If your new position would put you into a place where you would steal clients from your old company. Or if you are likely to divulge trade secrets of your former company.

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  • This recommendation assumes that they will know, which I believe in most cases to be unlikely. And no firm's employee has an incentive to say "yes" to this (unless they know you personally), and every incentive to say, "No." – Aaron Hall Nov 18 '15 at 17:40
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    I think your second paragraph is really important. States will have different policies. For example, California is... complicated to even enforce a non-compete, even if they don't let the employee out. – enderland Nov 18 '15 at 19:22
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    @AaronHall the question is how to address it. In most cases just asking is easier than taking the risk. If the company finds out you broke the contract even years later it could pursue damages. Most companies if you ask will release unless there is a significant conflict, or are still employed. Because if they choose not to release you and have no work for you, you could pursue damages against them if the judge decides there is not a significant conflict. So yes there is an incentive for them to release you if you ask. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Nov 18 '15 at 19:35
  • "Release me or pay me to not work for anyone" – ivanivan Jan 10 '19 at 15:51

What you are suggesting is definitely doable. Your ex-employer could waive that clause for just a certain company in a matter of minutes. Really you would just need a signed memo (notarized).

I would expect that your ex-employer will get to know who the new employer is and what you will be doing to make sure that the new employer isn't a threat and what you are doing couldn't cost them business in the short-term. Expect to give them details.

But unless your ex-employer is just really nice they will probably say no or refer you to their legal department (who will say no 99% of the time). There is just no reason for them spending time and money even thinking about it.

Probably your best bet is to get a lawyer. The lawyer can try to find a hole in the contract or contact old employer about nullifying.

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