Noncompete clauses in Indiana have become more specific over the years, making it easier for workers to consider new employment while protecting the interests of employers who are losing employees.
“The courts generally in Indiana do not like to enforce noncompetes, so they review them to make sure that the employer actually has some protectable interest,” Anthony Stites, an attorney in Fort Wayne with Barrett McNagny LLP, said last week.
Protectable interests include special or unique knowledge, technology, or processes that an employer has spent a lot of time or money gathering that would allow a competitor to get an edge without having invested the same time or effort, Stites said.
“Then the person who is asked to sign the noncompete would have to be in a position to have access to that information,” he said.
Noncompete agreements have also been narrowed to focus on what's considered more reasonable periods of time and geographic areas.
“The old noncompetes used to say in Allen County or in 50 miles of where a person worked,” Stites said.
Restrictions today are more likely to narrow the scope from a blanket 50-mile radius, for example, to going to work for a competitor and using the same contacts an employee engaged with on behalf of a previous company to help their new one gain advantage.
Common language in the agreements stipulate employees leaving do not go to a competitor, do not solicit the former employer's customers or divert any work to the new employer, Stites said.
Even with the refinements, most employers don't ask every employee to sign noncompete agreements.
“Never say never,” Stites said, “but it would be highly unlikely that a janitor signing one couldn't go and be a janitor somewhere else.”