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Ask Our Lawyer - June 2003

Q: I'm a mechanic in a local bike shop, and my employer recently told me I need to sign an agreement that I won't work for another shop within a ten mile radius if I leave my current job. I don't think that's fair. There are a number of bike shops around here, and almost all of them are within ten miles from my current employer. Can they really enforce that agreement against me?

A: Probably. What they have asked you to sign is called a non-compete agreement. It used to be that non-compete agreements were used only with managers or sales personnel. However, they are becoming more common with service personnel who make develop relationships with customers and entice customers to follow them if they move to a new employer.
Even though non-compete agreements are not favored by the law, if they follow the rules, those agreements are generally enforceable, provided the employer can show a reasonable belief that a departing employee could create unfair competition. However, non-compete agreements have to be reasonable in their restrictions. They can restrict a person from working in the same field, but only for a reasonable time period or within a reasonable distance from the employer's service area.
If your employer makes it a condition of your employment and you work in an "employment-at-will" state, you may have no choice but to sign the agreement if you want to keep working there. If you sign the agreement and leave the job later, the employer can ask a court to prevent you from working for a competitor. If the court finds that the agreement contains reasonable restrictions, and doesn't unfairly limit your rights to find a new job, the court could enter an order preventing you from working for the competitor or assess damages against you.

Remembering Spacy

It is hard to imagine, but Spacy Dave Dills is gone. I watched him go from a John Belushi look alike to the autumn of his life. He went from hardcore steel worker to the Executive Director of Abate of Indiana. He presided over ABATE at one of its most momentous times. He took us to new heights. No one grew more in that job than Spacy.
His proudest moment must have been at the greatest lobbying function of all time - the Manufacturers Association Meeting, an event he created at the Eiteljorg Museum, across from the State Capital. Everyone was there, the Governor, Supreme Court Justices, most of the State Senators and Representatives. I remember looking at a huge Billboard of all the sponsors of the event - the corporate who's who of the Midwest. On that list was Eli Lilly, Ford Motor Company, General Motors, Toyota, Chrysler, Baker and Daniels (the best silk stocking law firm in the Midwest) and the list went on. It was high brow, with violins and waiters in tuxedos - and at the top of the list was ABATE OF INDIANA. And at the base of this huge BILLBOARD was Dave Dills in a dark suit, power tie and a brand new pair of wing tips. I was so proud of him and what he had done I walked over and kissed him right on his forehead. Even though we had had issues, we bonded from that moment on. I think Spacy knew I had finally come to recognize his powerful efforts for ABATE.
The Spacy I remember is the John Belushi look-alike who didn't know what he couldn't do. He was like the Bumblebee, which according to scientists is not supposed to be able to fly. That was Spacy, and MAN, COULD HE FLY.


To Anonymous: I promise not to kick the French around anymore and stick to motorcycling issues, and I mean it this time!

If you have any questions you would like to ask the lawyer, please submit them to: ASK OUR LAWYER, P.O. Box 2850, Indianapolis, Indiana 46206-2850, or email rodtaylor@abatelegal.com.