Employee Non-Competes and Other Restrictive Covenants in Georgia

It used to be that Georgia took a dim view of employee non-competes, and courts happily threw them out for technical drafting issues the vast majority of the time.  This regime, which persisted up until May of 2011, is now wistfully referred to in employment law circles as “the old law”.  The old law has been displaced by the new Georgia Restrictive Covenant Act, a statute intended to make non-competes easier to draft, easier to enforce and thus secure an additional measure of competitiveness for Georgia employers.  However, the era of the Restrictive Covenant Act is riddled with problems for both employers and employees.

It’s been over four years since the RCA become law, and still, not one case to guide us on its biggest question mark – what will courts do with sloppily-drafted, or overly-broad, non-competes? Will they throw them out, along with other covenants in an employment agreement? Or will they exercise their discretion to “blue-pencil” or “modify” an offending non-compete? We simply don’t know, and nobody wants to be the guinea pig.  Therefore, when a sales manager or a junior engineer comes to us for advice on a document that purports to keep him out of his industry, worldwide, for three years, it can be difficult to give them peace of mind.  Likewise, when a company calls us to ask if they can hire a CFO under an overreaching non-compete, it can be difficult to give a clear green light.  Thanks a lot, RCA – at least under the old law, we knew where we stood – or at least, we knew where we stood more often.  Under the RCA, we won’t know exactly where we stand until the parties have spent $100,000 on litigation.

It’s not all doom and gloom.  We have learned a few things in this past four-and-a-half frustrating years.  Non-competes can often be navigated and negotiated.  They cannot, however, be ignored.  If you have a non-compete and want to know what it means, or you are thinking about signing one, call an experienced employment lawyer for advice.  Often, there are effective damage-control strategies at their fingertips.

To learn more, please contact us via our website or call us at 770-822-0900.