Is a Non-Compete for a Short-Term Employee Enforceable?

You joined a company, found out it was not a good fit, and left within a matter of weeks or months, but you signed a non-compete agreement that keeps you out of the industry for two years.  Can the company enforce the non-compete against you, even though you only worked for a few weeks? In other words, will a court allow an employer to enforce a non-compete contract that is more than five times the length of your employment?

According to the Wise County Circuit Court in Virginia, the non-compete is probably unenforceable.

The case, Clute v. Hale, Case No. C93-505, (Wise County 1993), involved a tax return prepared who worked for six weeks and was fired. The employer sought to enforcer a non-compete in the employee’s employment that would have prohibited working for two years.

The court held that the employer did not have a sufficient interest in enforcing a two-year non-compete against an employee who only worked for six weeks. The short duration of employment was not long enough to suggest that the employee gained any sort of unfair competitive advantage to limit her employment opportunities after she was fired.

Keep in mind that each case is fact specific and depends on the circumstances. However, at least in one Virginia case, employees who work for a short period of time may be able to avoid enforcement of a non-compete contract.