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Illinois Non-Compete Lawyers

Illinois Non-Solicitation and Non-Compete Attorneys

Our firm regularly advises Illinois clients about non-compete agreements, sometimes these are referred to restrictive covenants.  To learn more about non-compete agreements, click here, to read an article one of our lawyers co-authored for other professionals about non-compete agreements in Illinois.

Here is a video that might help you understand whether your non-compete agreement is enforceable in Illinois:

 

 

What is a non-compete agreement in Illinois?

In a nutshell, in Illinois, a non-compete agreement is an agreement signed by an employee often upon being hired or upon acceptance of a severance package. The non-compete agreement typically limits an employee from competing with their former employer during and after termination of employment. It does so by restricting the geographical area in which an employee can work if their new position operates in the same industry as their previous employment. Often, non-compete agreements will further protect the employer by restricting an employee from using an employer’s confidential information for his benefit or for the benefit of a subsequent employer.A typical non-compete agreement says something to the effect that “Employee agrees that he or she will not work for any similar business in the same or a similar role within 10 miles  of Employer’s headquarters during employment and for 1 year thereafter.”  The questions always is, can that be enforced.

Are non-completes and non-solicit agreements enforceable in Illinois?

In Illinois, non-compete agreements are only enforceable if they protect legitimate business interests.   A legitimate business interest is determined from the totality of the circumstances, including, for example, the near-permanence of customer relationships, the employee’s acquisition of confidential information through his employment, and time and place restrictions.

Whether or not a non-compete agreement is enforceable is dependent on the individual agreement at issue. Illinois courts, under certain circumstances, will enforce a non-compete contracts when the terms of the agreement are reasonable. That is, the agreement will be deemed valid when it is limited in duration and geographical scope and when it is narrowly tailored to protect only that information which needs protection (ie. confidential or sensitive information).

In essence, in order to be enforceable, the employer must be able to show it has a legitimate business interest in protecting the information it seeks to keep confidential. Some of the relevant factors in Illinois to determine if a non-compete agreement is enforceable is: 1) whether the non-compete agreement is no greater than required to protect the employers business interest, 2) whether the non-compete agreement imposes undue hardship on the employee, and 3) whether enforcing the non-compete agreement would prove harmful to the public.

Importantly, in determining whether an agreement is valid, courts attempt to balance the employee’s right to earn a living against the employer’s interest in protecting its information. A court may deem an agreement unenforceable if it is overly restrictive, unfairly limits the ability of workers to earn a living, provides for an unreasonably long period of time, or seeks to protect information that is not sensitive or confidential.

Here are some examples of non-compete and/or non-solicitation disputes we have handled in Illinois:

Are Non-Completes Enforceable For Physicians and Doctors in Illinois?

In Illinois, physicians and doctors can be subject to reasonable non-competes, but their enforceability depends in large part on how they are written and the purpose for them.    Again, courts enforce restrictive covenants for legitimate reasons.  Here is an article that one our non-compete lawyers wrote regarding non-competes for doctors:  “Physician Non-Complete Agreements in Illinois: Diagnosis—Critical Condition.

Non-Compete/Non-Solicitation Disputes

  • Defended a former employee of a large financial institution who sued after he and several people he supervised went to work for a competitor.   The lawsuit alleged that our client had stolen trade secrets by taking electronic files, breached his fiduciary duty by soliciting other employees to leave, and violated a non-solicitation contract.   We achieved a favorable resolution for our client within 8 months of when the lawsuit was filed.
  • We, along with co-counsel, represented the founder and former officer of a company who was sued for misappropriating trade secrets, violating an agreement to not compete after a buy-out, and allegedly utilizing confidential information.   The company sought a preliminary injunction and damages.  A hearing/trial was heard before American Arbitration Association in Chicago, Illinois and our client prevailed.
  • Defended a former employee of an Illinois based bank who was sued after it was alleged that he was a loan officer who violated his employment contract and misappropriated bank assets and committed violations of the Illinois Trade Secrets Act. All claims against our client were voluntarily dismissed.  (Cook County, Illinois)
  • Obtained dismissal, on jurisdictional grounds, for employee accused of claims under Defend Trade Secrets Act (“DTSA”) and other contract claims, including restrictive covenants, for joining alleged competitor.  To read  opinion click here and for an article on the case click here.
  • Avoided litigation by convincing prior employer to allow employee to confirm that subsequent employer was outside the scope of a restrictive covenant.

 

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