Please, Do Not Trust Your New Employer to Interpret Your Non-Compete Clause

We hear this too often:

“If I had known I wouldn’t be able to call my old customers, I would never have taken this new job. I told them when they offered me the job I had a non-compete and they told me it wasn’t a problem. And now,  I may get sued, or lose my job, or both!”

The reality is that switching jobs is filled with risks. Trusting your well-meaning new employer to give you legal advice about your non-compete contract is a quick detour down the wrong path.

Yet, we hear it all the time from otherwise  thoughtful, hard-working Virginians who change jobs with non-compete contracts.

They do the right thing and share the non-compete with their new boss. Rather than get legal advice from a lawyer who can advise them on the enforceability of the contract, they mistakenly rely on their new employer’s representations that their contract allows them to keep their book of business – and often, they’re wrong and it’s the new employee who is left cleaning up the mess.

Here is how Virginia employees can protect themselves during a job change.

Do not rely on your new employer to replace competent legal advice:

  1. Your new employer is likely not a Virginia lawyer;
  2. Your new employer likely does not understand what you can and cannot do under your old contract;
  3. Of course your new employer is going to say you can bring your old clients and customers – that is why they are hiring you!

So, while I wouldn’t recommend making major life changing decisions like job changes based on what another guy in the industry says about your contract, I would recommend calling a Virginia lawyer that knows Virginia contracts before you even entertain a new employment offer.

And then, let that lawyer share his or her opiniono of your contract and responsibilities with the new company – and maybe, they won’t hire you. Or maybe, they will hire you and agree to pay your attorneys fees if you get sued.. or likely, you will all just feel better that you know what might happen if you call customers.

Knowledge is power.

Asking a non-lawyer for his or her opinion on what your contract means is not helpful.

Lauren Ellerman
Lauren Ellerman

In 2011, Lauren Ellerman was named "Young Lawyer of the Year" by the Roanoke Bar Association for her work in the community. To speak with Lauren about your personal injury case, contact her at