Legal Lens: Understanding non-compete, non-disclosure agreements

Legal Lens

The Brown & Crouppen Legal Lens takes a closer look at everyday legal issues and gives you a better understanding of topics that may affect you.

ST. LOUIS – Many people are getting new jobs and changing careers. They are also being asked to sign non-disclosure and non-competes contracts. Andrea McNairy, managing attorney at Brown & Crouppen, explains it all in this week’s Legal Lens.

What are non-disclosure agreements?

“Non-disclosures, also go by other names too, trade secret agreements, NDA, confidential agreements all these are the same to restrict a party from disclosing confidential information about their employer,” McNairy said.

“So anything that isn’t already known in a public sphere or anything business deems confidential under a non-disclosure agreement. The other thing to note about non-disclosure agreements is that they often carry over after the employee-employer relationship terminates.”

Are these contracts someone should sign if they want the job?

“Yes, they are not unusual. Just make sure you know the terms of the contract you are agreeing to and for how long,” she said.

How do non-compete agreements play into a person’s decision to sign?

“Non-competes, we’re hearing a lot more about these as people change into different careers. What they are unlike non-disclosure agreements where they are often mutual non-competes are very often one-sided,” McNairy said.

“The employer wants the employee not to compete with the employer once that relationship does end. These again tend to be one-sided so the court will look at them with a lot of scrutiny.

“You want to make sure it’s reasonable and very narrow in geographic area and activities it’s covered or to keep you from performing and for a specific amount of time. So it can’t be vague or open-ended but need to be limited in scope and activities.”

Finally, can people get themselves in trouble by signing a non-compete? 

“They can. While the court will look at these closely because they are so one-sided but if you sign one that isn’t sufficiently narrowed it doesn’t mean that an ex-employer can’t bring you to court,” McNairy said.

As always, McNairy says to “be sure to read the fine print.”

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