Asked to Sign a Non-Compete? Know Your Virginia Rights
Have you been asked to sign a non-compete contract at work?
If you are a Virginia employee, then you should be aware of your rights in the workplace before signing. Here is a summary of what you need to know about Virginia non-compete contracts – before you sign.
Tip #1 – You have a right not to sign. There is no Virginia law that requires you to sign a non-compete contract. Just because the HR department or new boss has put a non-compete contract in front of you, there is nothing stopping you from turning down their offer. You can always walk away from the job (as long you haven’t already signed an employment contract that obligates you to keep working for a fixed period of time). The bottom line is that you have a right to decline to sign the non-compete.
Keep in mind that companies are not required to hire you if you refuse to sign their non-compete. Perhaps that’s a Catch-22: either sign the non-compete, or walk away from the job. But it’s important to know as a Virginia employee that the decision is yours – not theirs. You can choose what to do. And that’s an important distinction, because if you do sign-up for a non-compete, while you may be getting the job you want right now, it may be closing doors on future opportunities. So give it careful thought, and remember, you have a right not to sign the non-compete contract.
Tip #2 – You have a right to negotiate. This is really important to remember. When you get hired at a job, or even if you have been working there for a while, just because your employer wants you to sign a non-compete as a condition of keeping the job does not mean you need to accept the terms as written. Virginia employees have a right to negotiate the non-compete’s terms. There are lots of bargaining points, and depending on the nature of your employment, you may have leverage in the negotiations.
For example, a non-compete lawyer can review the contract and determine if it would even be enforceable under Virginia law. They can help you draft a set of talking points to limit the non-compete’s reach: scale back the duration; limit the geographic reach; add severance payments if you are terminated early, in exchange for compliance with the non-compete, a quid pr quo called “Garden Leave”; or, add an up-front bonus as consideration for signing the non-compete. Don’t just sign the non-compete as written. Assert your right to negotiate the terms of the non-compete. Now is the time.
Tip #3 – You have a right to an attorney. “You have a right to remain silent. Anything you say or do may be used against you in a court of law.. .” No, we’re not talking about Miranda warnings. It’s not that kind of right. But in the world of Virginia non-compete negotiations, you do have the right to review the terms of the non-compete contract with an employment lawyer before you sign. Judges are reluctant to enforce contracts that are put in front of employees and signed under duress. You have a basic right to take the non-compete contract home, contact an employment lawyer – locally, or online – and get it reviewed.
After all, a Virginia non-compete contract can drastically limit your career trajectory. You may not realize it now, when everything’s rosy about your new job and you don’t imagine ever leaving. But most employees change jobs several times throughout their career. It’s a fact of our modern economy. Before you sign a document that binds your future opportunities, you have a right to take time, review it with a lawyer, understand its terms, negotiate any sticking points, and get good legal advice about your rights.
Still have questions? Contact a Virginia non-compete lawyer for more information.