Can I Be Fired If I Refuse to Sign a Non-Compete in Pennsylvania?
If you have been working for your employer for some time and are suddenly asked to sign a non-compete agreement you may be unsure how to proceed. Signing the non-compete agreement certainly has ramifications for you should your employment with your employer end for any reason in the future. Not signing the agreement may also have more immediate negative consequences if your employer has indicated that signing the agreement is a condition of continued employment with the company, leaving you to wonder “Can I be fired if I refuse to sign a non-compete in Pennsylvania?” The answer to that question is “Yes, but…”
Non-compete agreements, or NCA, are agreements between an employee and an employer that limit certain aspects of employment for the employer should the employer leave the employ of the employer. Usually, these limitations relate to where the employee may work or what type of work the employee may engage in for a specific period of time after ending the employment relationship with the current employer. The intended purpose of a NCA is to protect legitimate business interests of an employer; however, employers routinely draft overly broad non-compete agreements that go far beyond what is needed to protect a legitimate business interest.
Employers often require a prospective employee to enter into a NCA as a condition of employment. In this case you have the opportunity to decide before taking the job if you are willing to agree to the terms of the agreement. An employer can, however, ask you to sign a non-compete agreement at any time. Furthermore, an employer can make signing the agreement a condition of future employment with the company; however, if the agreement is overly broad you could have the basis for a claim for wrongful termination.
Like most states, Pennsylvania is an employment “at will” state, meaning an employer can terminate you for any reason or for no reason unless you have an employment contract with the employer. There are, however, situation in which termination is considered “wrongful” under the eyes of the law. One of those situations is when the termination violates a public policy. An overly broad non-compete agreement can be considered a violation of public policy, thereby leading to a valid claim for wrongful termination if you are terminated for refusing to sign the agreement.
Whether or not a NCA is overly broad, and therefore violates public policy, is something that is decided on a case by case basis. If your employer has suddenly asked you to sign a non-compete agreement that you do not wish to sign it is imperative that you consult with an experienced Conshohocken, Pennsylvania employment law attorney as soon as possible to determine if you have the basis for a wrongful termination claim and to discuss your legal options. Contact the employment law attorneys at Curley & Rothman, LLC by calling 610-834-8819 today to schedule your free consultation.