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Non-Competition & Trade Secrets

Charlotte Non-Competition /
Non-Solicitation / Trade Secrets Lawyer

At Strianese Huckert LLP, our Charlotte employment law attorneys have extensive experience assisting employees with the negotiation, drafting, and litigation of non-competes, non-solicitation agreements, and trade secret issues. If you have any questions about your legal rights or legal responsibilities, we are more than ready to help. To schedule a strictly confidential case evaluation with a reliable North Carolina employment lawyer, please reach out to our Charlotte law office today.  

An Overview of Non-Competes, Non-Solicitation Agreements, and Trade Secret Protections

In the context of employment law, a restrictive covenant is a contract or contract provision that prohibits a worker from engaging in certain professional conduct during employment and after leaving a company. In general, restrictive covenants are designed to limit competition between an individual and their former employer. Here are three of the most common examples: 

Non-Compete Agreements

A non-compete agreement bars direct competition between an employee and their former employer. In North Carolina, non-compete agreements are lawful as long as they are limited in scope and duration. If you are considering signing a non-compete or you are wanting to get out of a non-compete, call our Charlotte non-compete agreement attorneys for immediate help. 

Non-Solicitation Agreements

A non-solicitation agreement bars an employee from trying to “poach” clients/customers of a former employer. Similar to a non-compete, North Carolina will only uphold these agreements if they are well-defined and reasonably narrow in scope. If you are negotiating a non-solicitation agreement or you were accused of breaching such an agreement, call our Charlotte non-solicitation lawyer for help. 

Trade Secret Protections Clauses

In many cases, non-compete and/or non-solicitation agreements are related to trade secrets. Under state and federal law, employers have additional legal tools to protect certain confidential information. Our Charlotte trade secret attorneys help employees protect their rights and interests

The Pros and Cons of Non-Competes/Non-Solicitation Agreements

Why Employers Like to Use These Agreements

Non-competition and non-solicitation agreements, as a general matter, restrict an employee from working for a competitor of, or soliciting the employees or customers of, their former employer for a period of time after their employment ends. 

The proponents of non-competition and non-solicitation agreements argue that they help keep markets and industries fair by restricting companies from stealing each other’s employees solely to obtain the confidential information of their competitors. 

They also argue that these clauses are especially important to small and medium sized businesses, who are susceptible to poaching by larger competitors, or in industries that derive a substantial portion of their revenue from their trade secret and other proprietary information (e.g., software companies)

Why These Agreements Can Cause Problems for Employees 

Detractors of non-competition and non-solicitation clauses argue that the clauses prohibit employees from earning a livelihood and prohibit employees from pursuing higher paying jobs. While the clauses usually limit the employee from working for an employer’s competitor, an employee who spends years in a given field or industry is most qualified for employment in that same field or industry and, as a result, may wind up working for a competitor. Therefore, the existence of a non-competition clause could severely limit the available employment opportunities of a departing employee.

North Carolina Courts Will Uphold Agreements—But Only in Certain Circumstances

While North Carolina Courts will uphold non-competition agreements that protect legitimate business interests, they will not uphold those that impose unreasonable restrictions. North Carolina law supports an individual’s right to earn a livelihood and will therefore not enforce non-competition agreements unless the restriction protects a substantial and legitimate interest of the former employer. In determining whether non-competition and non-solicitation agreements are valid, North Carolina Courts will typically look at: 

  • The time period an employee is restricted; 
  • The nature of the restriction; and 
  • The extent of the geographic restriction. 

Restrictive covenants that restrict an employee for a long duration, restrict the employee from performing any type of work for a competitor, and restrict the employee from working in a wide geographic area, are likely to be found unenforceable.

North Carolina Courts are More Willing to Protect Trade Secrets

Non-competition claims are more likely to succeed where an employer can show that the employee had access to its trade secrets or proprietary information. A trade secret is confidential information that is not generally known or easily ascertainable, except through membership with or employment in a company. A confidential process, formula, or algorithm, are examples of things that can qualify as trade secrets. When a departing employee has had access to an employer’s trade secret information, this can be a significant factor a court will look at to determine whether to enforce a non-competition agreement.

How Our North Carolina Attorneys Can Help With Your Employment Agreement Issue

Non-competition and non-solicitation agreements are among the most contentious and hotly contested cases between an employer and employee. At Strianese Huckert LLP, we know how to protect the legal rights and professional interests of employees. When you call our Charlotte office, you will have a chance to speak to a top-rated employment lawyer who will: 

  • Conduct an in depth, confidential review and analysis of your case; 
  • Explain your rights, responsibilities, and legal options; 
  • Investigate the issue—organizing the evidence and information you need; and
  • Take the appropriate action to protect your rights and get you the best outcome.  

We have successfully litigated a substantial number of non-competition and non-solicitation cases, including cases involving high level executives and extremely valuable confidential information. If you find yourself in need of an attorney experienced in litigating non-competition or non-solicitation cases, we encourage you to reach out to our employment law team. 

Schedule a Confidential Employment Law Consultation in Charlotte, North Carolina

At Strianese Huckert LLP, our North Carolina employment law attorneys have a passion for worker rights. We have the skills, experience, and legal knowledge to protect your rights and interests. If you have any questions about non-compete agreements, non-solicitation agreements, or trade secret provisions, we can help. Contact us now for confidential, no obligation initial legal consultation. We advocate for employee rights in Charlotte and throughout North Carolina.