One of the most common questions I get asked is whether non-competes are enforceable in Minnesota. The answer, like most things in the law, is that it depends on the circumstances.
Often times, newly hired employees are required to execute non-competes (also referred to as restrictive covenants) as a condition of commencing employment. The employer is generally focused on protecting its confidential or proprietary information that it will provide to the employee, keeping the employee from soliciting clients of the employer once she leaves employment, and/or preventing the employee from working for a direct competitor. If the employer’s non-compete is narrowly tailored to protect the legitimate business interests, the non-compete will likely be enforced. However, if the employer goes beyond what is necessary, the court will likely invalidate the non-compete as Minnesota views with disfavor non-competes which prohibit an individual from earning an honest living.
For example, if a Woodbury business employs a medical salesperson whose territory is focused exclusively in Washington County, but the employer’s non-compete seeks to prohibit the salesperson from selling any medical devices anywhere in the United States, such a non-compete would likely be found unenforceable. The non-compete is overly broad and would prohibit the employee’s ability to earn a living while providing beyond reasonable protection to the employer.
On the other hand, if a Stillwater business employs a concrete salesperson who has all of the employer’s confidential bidding information and the employer’s non-compete simply prohibits her from soliciting any of the employer’s clients for 18-months post-employment, such a non-compete would likely be found enforceable. The non-compete is narrowly tailored to simply prohibit the employee from seeking to persuade those clients her former employer introduced her to from leaving for a competing company.
We have represented both employers and employees alike throughout Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Iowa regarding the drafting of non-compete agreements at the commencement of the employment relationship as well as the litigation of non-compete agreements once the employment relationship ends. Because non-compete agreements are factually dependent inquiries, it is imperative to have a knowledgeable advocate in your corner.