Street Law School: I Signed A Non-Compete Agreement With My Old Employer, Now What?

contractIs your Oklahoma law based non-compete agreement with your old employer enforceable? The short answer is, in all likelihood, “No”.

If you are in Oklahoma the non-compete agreement is not enforceable under 15 O.S. 2001 §219A. With a couple of exceptions, Oklahoma law is clear that a former employee is allowed to work in his or her chosen business or industry even if a piece of paper he signed says otherwise.

Competition is allowed, and Oklahoma law only prohibits a former employee from soliciting the “established customers” of the former employer. An employer who invest its’ resources in training an employee and has disclosed confidential information to the employee still has ways to protect itself. A strong employment agreement providing protection for confidential information and trade secrets goes a long way to protect an employer’s interest. Nevertheless, the Oklahoma Legislature, in utilizing the term “established customer,” clearly had in mind those customers wherein a relationship was ongoing and anticipated to continue into the future. Thus, past and one off customers are fair game. Moreover, if the non-competition agreement fails to properly define its present and established customers, so that they do not stretch to encompass temporary or single-event relationships, the agreement is void and even those customers are fair game.   HOWARD v. NITRO-LIFT TECHNOLOGIES, L.L.C.2011 OK 98273 P.3d 20.

To sum it up, a former employee can compete against his former employer. However, if he signed a carefully worded and strictly limited non-compete agreement, he cannot do it using the employer’s confidential information or “established” clients.

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Thank you.

Brian

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