When up-and-comer sales VP Tomas finally landed his promotion to Regional Director, he could practically taste the corner office. In his excitement, he scrawled his signature on the dotted line of HR's dense 20-page non-compete contract without much glance at the fine print. But two years later when a recruiter came calling with Tomas' dream Executive role, his old employer slapped him with a lawsuit rather than a congratulations card.
Turns out deep in that swiftly-signed non-compete document were clauses restricting Tomas from any global strategic roles - not just with key competitors but massive segments of his industry - for a full three years. Essentially eliminating his hard-won professional network and expertise overnight! Nevermind he retained no insider intel or trade secrets. Even socially linking to ex-colleagues online now violated his sweeping non-solicitation extension.
Blindsided and watching his career unravel, Tomas scrambled to unlock himself from the contractual handcuffs. Thankfully an experienced employment lawyer helped carefully counter maneuver his former employer's extreme overreach based on state law limitations. But the whole ordeal left Tomas vowing to himself (and advising others) to read every last word of any contract and ask clarifying questions BEFORE ever affixing his signature.
Here are some additional tips to handle getting sued over a signed non-compete:
Carefully Review Terms Pull out your original signed contract and read through the full non-compete terms to understand exactly what restrictions they claim you violated. Highlight areas that seem excessively broad or unreasonable even if you signed originally. This evidence helps counter overreach.
Research State Laws Each state has unique laws and court leanings regarding non-compete enforceability, restrictions on duration/scope, "reasonableness" clauses etc. Consult resources on standards in your region to build your case against the employer's claims.
Challenge Overbroad Sections Work with a qualified employment lawyer to determine which portions of the non-compete agreement are legally vulnerable or challengeable as to blanket in duration, and industry/geographic scope. Fight to narrow or nullify these during settlement negotiations.
Argue Unfair Hardships Document in affidavits how the non-compete enforcement specifically hinders your ability to earn a living based on career investment and stops you from using general (non-proprietary) skills. Judges do consider economic/personal hardships.
Negotiate Buyout Offer Propose the company accept a "buyout payment" from your new employer to release you from the non-compete in lieu of quashing that opportunity. This turns it into a financial rather than legal matter.
Secure New Offer Letter Obtain a formal offer letter from your prospective employer confirming they still wish to onboard you if non-compete issues get resolved. This affirms current/future harm to your employment options now at stake.
Keep pressing your rights calmly with legal backing. Even a signed non-compete still faces hurdles to unfair enforcement.
No career fuel - no matter how sweet the promotion tastes - merits forfeiting your future freedom. But should you still face unfair non-compete shackles down the road, qualified legal experts can help judo even the most prohibitive clauses still clinging to you. At least then you've got a fighting chance to be doing that happy dance again rather than never.