Generally seen in the context of employment law, a non-compete agreement is a covenant between an employer and an employee intended to protect the employer's interests in the event of a separation. A non-compete agreement often prevents an employee from working or beginning a business in a similar industry within a certain time or in a given location, or both.
Those two elements, the time and geographical scope of a non-compete, can be the most important considerations when reviewing such agreements.
In this post and future posts, we will explore non-compete agreements as drafted and enforced in Kansas and Missouri. Stay tuned for future updates!
Each State Maintains Its Laws Regarding Non-Compete Agreements
Throughout the United States, the enforceability of non-compete agreements varies and depends on each state’s laws and court verdicts; for example, non-compete covenants are deemed void in California in nearly all circumstances, while Texas takes a more lenient view on the issue.
In Kansas, for example, a court will only enforce a non-compete if it is reasonable under the circumstances and not adverse to the public welfare. In determining whether a non-compete is reasonable, Kansas courts will consider whether it protects a legitimate business interest, whether it imposes an undue burden on the employee, whether it injures the public, and whether it includes reasonable time and territory restrictions.
Perhaps the most notable difference in laws governing non-compete agreements in Missouri and Kansas is the lack of a statute providing enforceability. Kansas, unlike Missouri, has no general legislation governing the enforceability of non-compete covenants. Missouri, on the other hand, has a statute that allows such agreements in specific circumstances.
This is not to say that a non-compete clause will be unenforceable in Kansas. On the contrary, Kansas courts generally do not interfere with an employer’s and an employee’s freedom to contract as long as the agreement protects a legitimate business interest.
Court Modifications to Non-Compete Agreements
In Missouri and Kansas, if a court deems that the restrictions within the non-compete agreement are unreasonable, it may modify the agreement to help protect the principal interests of the business.
For example, if a court determines that a geographic restriction within a non-compete agreement is too broad, it can enforce a client restriction clause instead. In this case, the court may allow a former employee to compete in the same geographical area as a former employer. Still, the employee will be restricted from soliciting the former employer's clients.
Remember that just because a court might invalidate or modify one clause of a non-compete agreement, it doesn’t necessarily render the entire agreement unenforceable. Instead, courts in both Kansas and Missouri will try to make the non-compete narrower instead of throwing it out entirely.
The laws surrounding non-compete covenants vary across the country. If you are unsure about the enforceability of a non-compete agreement, you should contact an employment attorney to discuss your options.
If you are in Kansas City or the region surrounding Kansas City, you can contact the Employment Lawyers at Krigel & Krigel to learn more about your situation.
*This article is very general in nature and does not constitute legal advice. Readers with legal questions should consult with an attorney prior to making any legal decisions.