Many Rhode Island employers want to avoid a situation in which one of their employees leaves to go to a competitor, taking all of the employer's valuable secrets and strategies with him or her to share with the employer's competitor.
For this and other reasons, many employers in this state will put in to their employment contracts noncompetition clauses. These agreements, which mean a person is legally limited as to where he or she can work if he or she wants to change jobs, are usually non-negotiable from the perspective of an employer.
However, Rhode Island courts put limits on how far these agreements can go. For instance, like any other contracts, noncompetition agreements have to be supported by consideration and they have to be part of the employee relationship.
More importantly though, a noncompetition agreement can only go so far as to protect the employer's interest in preserving things like the employer's trade secrets and other confidential information. This means, by way of example, that a noncompetition agreement would probably not get enforced if it prohibited a former employee from ever working in his or her profession again.
In any event, though, employees who are contemplating signing a contract need to know exactly what they are agreeing to when they consent a noncompetition agreement, as not following the terms of the agreement can mean an employee gets sued and taken through a difficult court proceeding. In some cases, it may not be worth taking a job if the noncompetition clause is overly restrictive.
As is the case with other terms in employment agreements, noncompetition clauses can be hard to understand, and it can be even harder to predict how such an agreement would affect one's future. Rhode Island employment law attorneys are available to assist employees.