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 beforeyou 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 the offer. You can always negotiate or walk away from the job, as long you have not already signed an employment contract that obligates you to work for a fixed period. The bottom line is that you have a right to decline to sign the non-compete.

Keep in mind, however, that companies are not required to hire or retain you if you refuse to sign an offered non-compete agreement. While you may have to choose between signing a non-compete or walking away from the job, it is important to know that the decision is ultimately yours. If you agree to a non-compete, you may be closing doors on future opportunities despite securing a job in the moment.  Therefore, consider your options carefully before deciding how to proceed.

Tip #2 – You have a right to negotiate.  Your employer wanting you to sign a non-compete does not mean you need to accept the terms as written, regardless of whether offered at hiring or for continued employment.  Virginia employees have a right to negotiate a non-compete agreement’s terms. Employees should consider their bargaining power and potential leverage in the negotiations.

For example, a non-compete lawyer can review the contract, determine if it would even be enforceable under Virginia law, and help you draft a set of talking points for negotiations. Non-compete lawyers consider:

  • Limiting the duration or geographic scope of the restrictions;
  • Adding guaranteed severance for the employee at the time of separation in exchange for compliance with the non-compete; or
  • Including an up-front bonus for the employee as consideration for signing the non-compete.

Tip #3 – You have a right to consult with an attorney.  Employees often benefit from consulting with an attorney, who can review the terms of a non-compete agreement and discuss options with you. 

Employees often do not think about separation at the time of hiring, but most employees change jobs several times throughout their career. Before signing a legally binding document that may impact future opportunities, you have a right review it with a lawyer, understand its terms, and negotiate any sticking points.

Still have questions? Contact a Virginia non-compete lawyer for more information.