Tuesday, June 26, 2012

New Hampshire Employer Alert: Notice Required for Non-Compete Agreements

A few years ago, Oregon enacted legislation requiring that employers give employees notice they will have to sign non-compete agreements. New Hampshire has just followed suit.

In a statute passed May 15 - to take effect July 14 - employers in New Hampshire must provide a copy of any "non-compete or non-piracy agreement" to an employee or potential new hire. The terms are not defined, but it seems obvious any restriction on competitive conduct or solicitation (or employees or customers) would fall within the statute. Less certain is whether a non-disclosure agreement would, though the text of the agreement suggests it wouldn't.

The statute also applies to a "change in job classification." As Seyfarth Shaw's blog points out, this too is not defined and could include a promotion, demotion, or lateral move. I doubt it would include a change in pay, since that doesn't seem to alter how one is classified.

The law is vague enough that crafty lawyers will soon litigate over its meaning.

I don't think it's worth reading too much into this, though. Smart employers should provide a copy of a non-compete to a new hire with reasonable notice. This helps mitigate any consideration defense, to be sure. But it also is a sound business practice. Experience shows that employees are more satisfied and less likely to leave if they feel as though they have been treated fairly by their employers.

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