Negotiating Non-compete agreements

I just got upset with non-compete agreements again.  Here is what I have written on it before.  Good stuff.

How to negotiate a noncompete

Best:

When you are presented with a contract that has a non-compete agreement the most effective negotiation is to say, “My lawyer needs to look at this.”  Your lawyer always trumps their negotiator.  The problem is that they may assume you are not worth the hassle of lawyers and changing the contract.  That is what you need to decide.  For most situations, I suggest you try the “Very Good” approach.

Very Good:

Cross out and alter the parts of the non-compete paragraph that you don’t like, initial the changes, sign the contract and hand it back. Do NOT tell them what you are doing until you have finished and handed it back.  Then don’t say a word, not one word, until they start talking.  The HR person will turn green.  That is okay. They may accept it without comment.  This is the most commonly successful ploy I have seen.  What you have written on the agreement always takes precedence over what was printed.  Make sure you get a copy of what you signed to take home with you.

Often the person telling you that they can’t accept the contract actually does have the authority to accept your changes. Since you have already despoiled the pristine contract, and won’t be moved, they are under pressure.  At this point you can say, “If you cannot accept those reasonable changes to the non-compete clause, I will have to take this to my lawyer.  That may take a week or two.  Would you like me to consult my lawyer?”  That may be enough pressure to get them to just accept it.

Terrible:

Accept the assurances of the person you are talking to that they never enforce the non-competes.  If they never enforce them, then legally the court is likely to let you off the hook.  However, that will be 3 months after you left your job and your new employer won’t pay you a penny until you clean up the legal mess.

Conclusion

Don’t be pressured into a non-compete you don’t want to accept.  Negotiate.

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