Massachusetts law permits the use of non-compete agreements. Although there has been discussion in the state Legislature about limiting them or banning them, the rule remains that employers may use non-compete agreements in most areas of employment.
What can non-compete agreements limit? Generally, a non-compete agreement may restrict the former employee from their line of work so long as the agreement is reasonable as to three things: (1) the duration; (2) the scope or type of work; and (3) the geographic limitation. There are not any hard-and-fast rules, so each non-compete agreement is reviewed on its own merits.
For instance, a non-compete agreement that prohibits someone from ever working anywhere in the country in their field for the next 20 years is probably unreasonable and will not be enforced. On the other hand, if it has a one-year limitation and only restricts work within a 10-mile radius of the employer’s location, it is much more likely to be enforceable. If a non-compete agreement is unreasonable, a judge can modify it to make it less restrictive.
Under Massachusetts law, there are a few occupations that cannot be limited by a non-compete agreement. These are lawyers (under Mass. R. Prof. C. 5.6), doctors (under M.G.L. chapter 112, section 12X, nurses (under M.G.L. chapter 112, section 74D), social workers (under M.G.L. chapter 112, section 135C), and broadcasters (under M.G.L. chapter 149, section 186). Any attempt to limit these professions is illegal and unenforceable.
For employees uncertain of whether a non-compete agreement is binding on them, it is important to consult an attorney about the possibilities. It is better to review the non-compete before agreeing to it than after.
Culik Law has experience with non-compete agreements and can assist with reviewing and advising on them. Contact our office for a case evaluation.