I’ve helped a lot of employers draft and implement non-compete agreements with their employees. Wisconsin has strict requirements about how you can restrict an employee both during and after employment. The goal of a non-compete is to protect your business’ secrets, customers, and geographic area of sales. Non-competes, like any contract must be supported by “consideration.” The employer must give something to the employee in exchange for the employee promising not to divulge secrets or compete against the business during or after employment. Historically, employment or continued employment could be the consideration from the employer. “If you want to keep working here, you will need to sign a non-compete.” This rule is going to be reviewed by the Wisconsin Supreme Court.
In Runzheimer International Ltd. v. Friedlen, 2013AP1392 (April 15, 2014), the Wisconsin Supreme Court will decide whether an existing, at-will, employee can be required to sign a non-compete as a condition for keeping their job. I’ll keep you informed as the case moves ahead.
In the meantime, if you have considered non-compete and confidentiality agreements with your employees, call me to learn about the requirements and enforceability of the documents. I can help navigate you through the different areas that may need protection (information, processes, sales, customer lists, etc.) and assist with drafting documents which will be enforceable if an employee leaves you and tries to break the agreement. If you have confidentiality or non-compete agreements in place, when were they last reviewed by an attorney?
Johanna R Kirk