A non-compete agreement is a legal contract that is drafted by an employer in order to make sure an employee cannot work for a competitor company in the same industry during or after employment.

It is used in highly competitive industries to prevent employees or former employees revealing crucial information to other companies.

The length of these contracts varies, but they generally last for the duration of employment with the business and for a specific time after.

Now that we understand the non-compete agreement definition, we can look at them in more detail.

We’ll discuss the industries that tend to use these types of agreements, analyze the pros and cons, and go into more depth about enforcing a non-compete agreement.

If you’re thinking of breaking your non-compete agreement, it’s essential you do your research beforehand in order to avoid any legal problems with your employer.

What is a non-compete agreement?

A non-compete agreement is a contract between the employee and the employer.

These contracts state that during a certain time, the employee is not permitted to work for a company in the same industry as the employer’s company.

Employers often use non-compete agreements in order to protect themselves against former employees revealing sensitive information or secrets about their business operations.

This can include future products, marketing plans, public relations, employee salaries, and much more.

Non-compete agreements also prohibit the employee from interviewing for the competitor’s roles.

Any disclosure of sensitive information could result in a potential lawsuit, which is why employees should take non-compete agreements seriously.

What are the industries that use a non-compete agreement?

Some industries take non-compete agreements more seriously than others.

One of the most common industries that present employees with a non-compete agreement is the media.

Because many of the employees are the face of the company, there is a legitimate concern about switching to a competitor company and negatively affecting loyal viewership.

For example, in 2016, Buzzfeed fired two popular employees after they appeared in a web series that didn’t belong to the company.

The firings came as a surprise to their colleagues who hadn’t realized how strict their non-compete agreements were.

Non-compete agreements can also be found in the IT sector due to the important information employees work with.

These types of contracts can also be found in health industries as well as tech, fintech, crypto, and many more.

The non-compete agreement we have available in our templates is easy to customize to suit a variety of industries.

However, it is essential to note that just because a business uses a non-compete clause, it doesn’t mean that it’s automatically enforceable.

Non-Compete Agreement Template

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Non-compete agreements (or restrictive covenants) are essential documents for many organizations. Use this free non-compete agreement template to form legally binding arrangements with companies, clients, and former employees. Use it to detail the terms of your non-compete arrangement and specify laws and regulations applicable to the jurisdiction.

Use this template – free

What are the advantages and disadvantages of a non-compete contract?

Non-compete agreements have long been a common practice for many businesses, and while they have several advantages, there are also disadvantages that must be taken into account.

Many see non-compete agreements as a nuisance, and in 2020, a Journal of Law and Economics report revealed that one in five American workers are made to sign a non-compete contract.

In this section, we outline some of their most significant advantages and disadvantages.


The main two advantages include the protection of sensitive information and protection against unethical practices.

Protection of sensitive information

One of the most significant advantages of a non-compete agreement is that it helps protect a company’s crucial and sensitive information.

This is especially important for businesses operating in a highly competitive industry, where the risk of competitors gaining access to confidential information is high and very detrimental.

By enforcing a non-compete agreement, companies can legally prevent their former employees from sharing such information with their new employer.

Protection against unethical practices

In some cases, businesses may engage in unethical practices, such as interviewing and hiring competitors’ employees.

By enforcing a non-compete agreement, companies can prevent their current and former employees from engaging in such practices, which helps protect the company’s reputation and prevents competitors from gaining unfair advantages by fishing for your people.


The main three disadvantages of a non-compete agreement are that they limit job opportunities, can negatively affect innovation, and, legally, they’re a little controversial.

Limiting job opportunities

Non-compete agreements can be a major disadvantage for employees, as they can limit job opportunities.

The agreement restricts the employee’s ability to work for a competitor or start their own business in the same field.

With unemployment often a concern for working people, non-compete agreements can make it harder for employees to find employment, especially if they have industry-specific experience.

Negative impact on innovation

Non-compete agreements can also have a negative impact on innovation since employees may be discouraged from leaving their current employer to pursue new opportunities that could lead to innovative breakthroughs.

This can stifle progress and limit growth opportunities for the employee, the company, and society as a whole.

Controversial legal status

Non-compete agreements are not free from controversy, with some states and jurisdictions limiting or outright banning them.

In July 2021, President Joe Biden signed an executive order that would largely ban or limit non-compete agreements, citing that between 36 and 60 million workers are negatively affected by them.

With non-compete agreements being controversial, it can be difficult for businesses to enforce them in certain areas.

Non-compete agreements can have advantages and disadvantages for businesses and employees.

While they can protect a company’s sensitive information and prevent some unethical practices, they can also limit job opportunities and negatively impact innovation for society as a whole.

With so much controversy surrounding non-compete agreements, it is essential for businesses to carefully consider the pros and cons before implementing them.

And, as employment and labor attorney Mark Kruthers proposed, the current administration should consider implementing regulations to ensure all agreements are reasonable and fair to everybody involved.

How long does a non-compete agreement last?

The length of a non-compete agreement often varies and depends on several factors, such as the industry, the employer, and the state or jurisdiction in which the agreement is enforced.

Generally speaking, non-compete agreements tend to range anywhere from six months to two years, with a few exceptions.

In some industries, such as technology and finance, the duration of non-compete agreements can be on the shorter end of the spectrum, typically lasting between six and twelve months.

In other industries, such as healthcare or sales, non-compete agreements can often last up to two years.

The length of a non-compete agreement should be fair and proportionate to the interests under protection.

Courts might scrutinize the duration of non-compete agreements and deem them unenforceable if they are judged to be excessive or unreasonable.

Some states even have specific laws regarding the duration of non-compete agreements.

In California, non-compete agreements are mostly unenforceable, except in very specific and limited circumstances.

In other states, such as Florida and Texas, non-compete agreements are enforceable, but the duration has to be deemed reasonable.

The legal requirements regarding non-compete agreements vary by jurisdiction and are supposed to be reasonable and proportionate to the interests being protected.

What happens if you break a non-compete agreement?

Although many companies enforce non-compete agreements, employees regularly work for their previous employer’s competitor.

Of course, this depends on the industry.

Should you consider this option, you must familiarize yourself with the possible outcomes of breaking your agreement.

If you break a non-compete clause, your employer can take you to court and file a formal lawsuit.

Research showed that thousands of non-compete lawsuits occur in the U.S. each year.

The Wall Street Journal confirmed that lawsuits increased by 60% from 2002 to 2013.

There are several types of lawsuits companies can enforce in this case.

These include:

1. Injunctions

This is one of the most common types of lawsuits employers tend to use when an employee breaks a non-compete agreement.

Before an injunction takes place, the employer will use a lawyer to write to the employee.

The employee is served with an order to leave the new employer due to a breach of contract.

This way, the employer avoids going to court.

However, the employee can use a lawyer to make changes to the proposed order and reach a settlement.

This may be a costly procedure, which is why it’s essential to hire a solicitor if you’re served with an injunction order as an employee.

2. Compensatory damages

The employer has to present an itemized report of financial damages being made due to the breach of contract.

Depending on the severity and importance of the information shared, the financial damages can range from minuscule to large.

This information is often included in the contract itself or presented in court.

3. Punitive damages

To receive punitive damages, the employer has to prove that the employee leaving was involved in malicious conduct that directly hurt the company.

If you vindictively leave a company with a clear intent to hurt its reputation, that employer can sue you for punitive damages.

However, the employer needs to present clear evidence of malicious conduct taking place before they can claim punitive damages.

For example, if a departing employee tried to recruit existing employees to leave with them, the employer would most likely need to present clear evidence that this communication took place.

Many non-competition clauses include a section that states that an employee is prohibited from encouraging other employees to leave.

It may also contain a clause that states you are not allowed to recruit any of the employer’s customers to your new business.

4. Liquidated damages

Liquidated damages are a part of the non-compete agreement contract.

The employee has to pay a specific amount stated in the contract in order to compensate for leaving the company and working for a competitor.

The employee leaving will need to pay these costs themselves unless otherwise specified in the contract.

Non-compete agreements are also banned in North Dakota. Colorado also considers non-compete clauses void, unless they fall under specific circumstances.

These can be found through the Colorado Court of Appeals. Every other U.S state, including Georgia, Texas, and New York, have enforceable non-compete agreements.

However, whether an employer is allowed to take legal action depends on the reasonability of the contract.

If you’ve entered a non-compete clause but are now looking to leave your current employer, it’s worth taking these points into consideration:

  • Are the time limits reasonable?
  • Are the geographical limits reasonable?
  • Are general restrictions reasonable?

If the answer is no, there may be a chance that your non-compete agreement is not enforceable.

However, it is essential you consult a solicitor rather than act on your own accord and dismiss your current contract.

Unfortunately, it’s not easy to predict whether the contract will be automatically unenforceable.

The court can interpret the clause to work in your or in your employer’s favor.

Always make sure you check whether the clauses are strictly defined — this should give a clearer idea of whether the court will end up enforcing the agreement.

Biggest mistakes with non-competition agreements

Companies can make a lot of costly mistakes when they demand non-compete agreements.

These include making every employee sign the contract when that may not be needed.

These mistakes can also allow employees to get out of their non-compete agreement without breaking the law.

Some agreements may have a long restriction period and have an overly broad restriction, which would make the court see the agreement as unreasonable.

For example, an agreement with a duration of six months is often seen as more reasonable than a year-long restriction.

Businesses should also be as specific as possible and avoid vague clauses.

In order to make the agreement enforceable, companies should always try to provide a non-competition agreement with value to the employee.

Many companies make the mistake of having existing employees sign a new non-competition contract, but refusing to give them a bigger salary or new responsibilities in return.

It’s important to remember that a non-compete agreement should be negotiable in most cases.

If you’re an employer, it’s essential that you listen to the employee’s concerns regarding the agreement and remain open to communication and potential adjustments to various clauses.

Companies should always consider legal advice in order to draft the best possible agreement and avoid a one-size-fits-all approach.

What is a non-compete agreement

If you’re served with a non-competition agreement, you should always make sure that your employer’s expectations are reasonable.

However, you must take your contract into consideration when interviewing with other companies, no matter how you feel about your current employer.

Non-compete agreements vary by state — only California and North Dakota have an outright ban on these types of contracts.

You will be able to find legal information about non-compete clauses in your state on the state government’s website and in any legal policies.

It’s important to remember that a non-compete agreement means something different from a non-disclosure agreement (commonly referred to as an NDA).

A non-compete clause is focused on preventing an employee from working for a competitor altogether.

An NDA is more focused on preventing the employee from revealing sensitive information to anyone. This can include any projects you are working on, client lists, creative work, strategies, and much more.

In some cases, a non-disclosure agreement may be better than a non-compete agreement. For an exceptional NDA, check out our template.

It will let you craft a professional, detailed agreement to protect your business or reassure your clients with just a few clicks.

Finally, always pay attention to non-compete clauses if you work in the media industry and are the face of the company.

If you are interviewing with a competitor, make sure you do not disclose any trading secrets or confidential business information while talking about your current work.

Non-compete agreement structure sample

This is an example of what a non-compete agreement may look like.

Lengths of non-compete agreement contracts vary by industry as well as by each individual employer.

It’s important to ensure that employers seek advice from a solicitor to ensure their agreements work best for their specific industry.

However, the initial structure is the same for every agreement.

This includes a preamble, which displays important details of the contract and who the involved parties are, as well as the official agreement.

PandaDoc’s full non-compete agreement is a thorough and versatile template that can be customized with your information to suit your business’s needs.

Every non-compete agreement consists of the following structure:

Preamble: Shows important details of the document and names of the involved parties.

This is an Agreement between [EMPLOYEE] (“You”) and [COMPANY] (“Company”). The Agreement is effective on _____ (“Effective Date”).

By confirming your employment at [COMPANY], you agree to the following legally bound conditions:

Agreement: The length of the agreement may differ, but you can expect to find several points, including the ones outlined below.

  1. Term of Agreement: The term clearly states when the agreement comes into effect and how long it lasts, including the dates of restriction after the employee’s termination.
  2. Limitations of this Agreement: Here, the contract will describe the nature of the contract and gives a brief description of what the limitations of the agreement are for the employee.
  3. Covenant not to compete: Describes exactly what the employee is agreeing to by signing the contract. This includes the time period and mentions other conditions, such as industry and geographical location conditions (e.g., cannot work for a competitor within a certain area).
  4. Non-solicitation: This is the section that states the employee should not solicit any employee or independent contractor on their behalf or induce any other employee to terminate their contract with the company.
  5. Soliciting customers after termination of agreement: States that the employee is not permitted to disclose any information regarding the company and its customers to competitors.
  6. Injunctive relief: This section explains what the consequences of breaching this contract would be.
  7. Severable provisions: Here, you can state that even if one or more provisions aren’t enforceable, other provisions may still be enforceable and legally binding.
  8. Modifications: This section states your modification proposals. Typically, any modifications should be agreed upon in writing.
  9. Prior understandings: This section explains that this agreement supersedes any prior contracts signed by the employee.
  10. Waiver: Describes your waiver conditions.
  11. Jurisdiction and venue: This area includes an agreement to submit to the jurisdiction paragraph and acknowledges the state where employment takes place.

Signatures of both parties: After a closing statement, both parties clearly sign and date the agreement to make it official

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, each of the Parties has executed this Contract, both Parties by its duly authorized officer, as of the day and year set forth below.


Non-compete agreement best practices

In conclusion, non-compete agreements should be thoroughly looked over before signing.

If you’re a business, you should make sure your limitations are reasonable and create a contract that benefits you as well as your employee.

Many solicitors specialize in developing non-compete agreements that take the nature of your business and your employees into consideration, and you can even use a customizable non-compete agreement template to do the work yourself.

If you’re an employee, you should always make sure you pay attention to your non-competition contract before interviewing with any potential competitors.

The consequences for breaching a non-compete agreement can be serious and costly.

If you’re served with legal papers after you leave your employee, it’s best to consult a solicitor before moving forward.

Frequently asked questions

  • A competitor in a non-compete agreement is typically defined as any business or individual that operates in the same or a similar industry as the employer and may potentially compete with the employer’s business interests.

  • If you’re wondering how to get out of a non-compete agreement, you may be able to negotiate the terms of the agreement with the employer or seek legal advice on the enforceability of the agreement. Some states also have specific laws or limitations on non-compete agreements, which may allow you to challenge or modify the terms of the agreement.


PandDoc is not a law firm, or a substitute for an attorney or law firm. This page is not intended to and does not provide legal advice. Should you have legal questions on the validity of e-signatures or digital signatures and the enforceability thereof, please consult with an attorney or law firm. Use of PandaDocs services are governed by our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

Originally published March 23, 2022, updated June 6, 2023