I saw an article in E-Week/Careers and had to comment.
I’ve been the victim of overzealous non-compete enforcement, almost twice actually.
The problem is that it’s not that they can actually enforce it, it’s that no matter what you do they try.
It cost me over $8,000 leaving a certain Alpharetta, GA-based storage consulting firm, even though my departure did nothing to violate the agreement I signed. I left the metropolitan area (specifically per the agreement) and went through major pains not to work at any of the client sites I was sub-contracted out to.
Over $8,000 of legal fees later they randomly dropped it stating that they didn’t believe they had a claim.
A non-compete is a license-to-harass. It’s a way for a company to get past an evidencary hearing and make a technologist’s life hell should they decide that maybe their career isn’t moving ahead fast enough or that the 80-hour work-weeks are getting to be too much.
I left my first consulting firm after they refused to take me off an assignment that was killing me and causing major family problems. I was driving from Laguna Beach, CA to Burbank, CA, a 60 mile round trip that would take me on average 2-3 hours to drive in each direction. I took the assignment because it was supposed to be a 6-week scripting project that turned into almost 18 months. The project itself was fun but when you spend that much time in a car things start to suffer – health, family, and sanity being among them.
The non-compete agreement I had with them stated, quite plainly that I wasn’t allowed to consult in any metropolitan region where I had performed services for them. So that left Phoenix Metro, LA Metro and SanDiego Metro out of the picture.
So I moved to Virginia. Not quite the LA metro area, right? Well they sued me anyway, forcing me to retain a lawyer to explain to them exactly why they were idiots. He did it, but then sent me the bill, which is when I really realized that I was the idiot.
My last consulting firm was for a Virginia based company. When I started making noises about leaving, I was pulled aside and told in no-uncertain terms that I would be vigorously pursued if I did something stupid like signing on with EMC directly.
Which is why I ended up at the last private company I worked for, wasting 18 months of my life on yet another no-future position waiting for my non-compete to expire.
They almost got me back in March, but luckily I had the forsight to come back on the condition that they let me amend the non-compete. Which I did, removing any reference to the 18 month wait and making absolutly sure that working for EMC wouldn’t be considered competition.
Now I work for myself, slowly starting my own firm (a firm of one so far). But I am postiive if it ever grows beyond a firm of one, that I’ll never even think about having someone sign a non-compete…