The non-compete agreement is a controversial part of employment, and it is one that is facing more and more limits and scrutiny in recent years. A non-compete in Washington can prevent a worker from going to one of their employer’s competitors and working for them instead. This is something that was already getting attention before the pandemic, and now that remote work is becoming more common, there are new rules about how non-competes can interact with remote work conditions.
The surprising role of remote work in non-competes
Non-competes were generally written before the pandemic hit, so there were clauses in them that had unforeseen effects. For example, the agreements usually defined a physical and geographic area where these competitors could be located that the employee cannot work for. However, court cases have found that if the employee is working remotely, they can choose to work for a restricted competitor as long as they don’t work with the customers of their old employer.
Additionally, non-competes are written according to specific state laws. Under covid working conditions, an employee on a non-compete might wind up working remotely for a competitor in a different state, and in that state, the non-compete might not be valid anymore. Employers who try to write a non-compete now need to write them so that they will be applicable to the laws of other states, not just the state where that employer operates.
The complexities of remote work are eroding away the traditional boundaries of a non-compete agreement. It is not clear how this will evolve as the pandemic ends, but the legal changes to how non-competes work are already established.