Employment Discrimination Blog

Thursday, January 28, 2021

Are Non-Compete Agreements Enforceable in Georgia?

Non-compete agreements have become a hot topic as social media and 24-hour news coverage frequently turn the spotlight on employers abusing non-compete agreements to the detriment of their employees. Non-compete agreements are intended to protect a company’s intellectual property (“IP”). If an employee with specific, non-public knowledge about the way a business or its products operate were to leave for a competitor, they would naturally take their knowledge with them to the new competitor and it would jeopardise their original employer’s IP.

To protect employer’s IP, non-compete agreements limit the ability of employees to freely move to competitors. While non-competes can serve a legitimate purpose, they are often a tool of abuse for employers to gain leverage over their employees. If you’re an employee subject to a non-compete agreement, your employer knows that you can’t leave for a similar job. As such, they know that you have limited bargaining power and thus they can take advantage of you via lower pay, poor treatment, and other unfair and unconscionable actions. For employees without access to confidential business secrets, the risk for the business to lose its IP disappears; however, that hasn’t stopped employers from attempting to subject all employees to non-compete agreements to improve the employer’s leverage in the employment relationship.

Years ago, Georgia law protected employees from employer abuse; however, more recent state legislative and constitutional changes have turned Georgia into a pro-employer state that favors non-competes. Although Georgia has changed its views, we have not. At Pankey & Horlock, our attorneys aggressively defend employees subject to non-compete agreements. If you are subject to a non-compete agreement or your employer is threatening you with a non-compete agreement, please contact our office to schedule a free consultation.

When Is a Non-Compete Agreement Enforceable?

In Georgia, a non-compete agreement is generally enforceable so long as there is:

  1. Consideration. Consideration is what is given in exchange for something. Consideration could be providing a new benefit or additional pay to an existing employee in exchange for them signing a non-compete. For a new employee, the offer of employment can suffice.
  2. A valid business interest. Businesses must have a legitimate reason to enforce the non-compete, such as protecting their IP. For many employees subject to non-compete abuse, their employers lack a valid business interest.
  3. Reasonableness. A non-compete agreement must be reasonable in that the restrictions on employment are commensurate with the protections expected. A non-compete that bars an employee from working at a competitor for 10 years would be seen as unreasonable.

In the event that a non-compete agreement is deemed unreasonable, courts can use the “Blue Pencil” rule to rewrite the unreasonable portions to be reasonable in the eyes of the court for the benefit of the employer, thus further favoring employers.

Georgia Employment Discrimination and Civil Rights Attorneys

At Pankey & Horlock, we understand the unique pressures that COVID-19 has placed on employees and families. Unfairly, those most affected are often mistreated by their employers and denied the rights they’re entitled to. Our attorneys still believe in the rights of employees, even though Georgia may not. If you believe you’ve been the victim of an employment rights violation or are subject to a non-compete agreement, please contact our office today for a free consultation.

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The attorneys of Pankey & Horlock, LLC serve the entire state of Georgia, including Atlanta, Alpharetta, Auburn, Decatur, Doraville, Douglasville, Duluth, Kennesaw, Lawrenceville, Marietta, Stone Mountain, Dekalb County, Fulton County, Gwinnett County, and Cobb County, GA.

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