Leaving the Tennessee Mornings studio earlier today, I realized there were still a few points that I wasn’t able to cover on-air concerning Tennessee non-compete contracts.
Unfortunately, I still don’t have the time right now to go into most of them. Besides, each contract is unique.
Instead, what I would like to do for you Tennessee Law Blog readers is emphasize one essential point underlying the validity of any Tennessee covenant not to compete (another name for a non-compete contract) and the basis for valid disputes and negotiations. However intuitive the following might seem in the often counterintuitive Tennessee Law, the essence of any non-compete is whether the contract answers the following in the positive or the negative:
Is the non-compete clause/contract fair?
There are various legal nuances involved in answering this question but, ultimately, Tennessee law works towards an idea of fairness–at least in the instance of non-competition contracts.
Non-competes are for the benefit of the employer, never the employee, and are generally frowned upon by Tennessee courts because they are seen as a restriction on free trade. If the non-compete contract protects vital corporate information or training that would put your Tennessee employer at a distinct disadvantage if you provided this intellectual property to a competitor, then the contract may be honored with only minor blue penciling modifications. But if this information or training is generally public or known within your industry, then such training is not protected and you are allowed to use your work experience to benefit another employer.
If the non-compete is too restrictive in time (you may never work again in your field) or geography (you may not work anywhere in Tennessee or elsewhere), then it will most likely not be honored or will be renegotiated to remove those restrictions causing you unnecessary economic hardships.
Also, if your position is in a medical field, your covenant not to compete may be voided by a Tennessee court to allow for the general wellbeing of Tennesseans. There are also times when non-competes can be nullified by Tennessee courts because the company didn’t uphold portions of its contracts with your or other Tennessee employees or because it broke business laws.
Again, there are various techniques and technicalities known to qualified Tennessee employment contract lawyers that allow us to negotiate and/or void otherwise binding and detrimental non-competes. Your signature on a covenant not to compete does not mean your professional career is over.
If you’d like to speak with me about negotiating your non-compete contract with your Tennessee employer, fill out our HHP contact form and either I or another Nashville, TN workplace attorney will review your case. As with most employment contract matters, initial consultations are always free.