In British Columbia, restrictive covenants in employment contracts are a hot-button issue for professionals. If you are starting a new job and have been asked to sign an employment contract, it’s crucial to understand the fine print that could shape your career trajectory.
Understanding restrictive covenants
Restrictive covenants are clauses in employment contracts that can significantly impact your career mobility and future opportunities. These legal stipulations may come in the form of non-compete, non-solicitation, confidentiality and non-disparagement agreements.
These provisions can protect a company’s interests by limiting the actions of employees both during and after their employment.
However, restrictive covenants can impact your career even after you have left a position. If you sign one, the contractual terms could dictate:
- Where you can and cannot work
- Whether you can start a business in the same field
- Which roles you can accept at other companies
- Clients you can and cannot work with
- Information you can and cannot share
If you have agreed to an enforceable restrictive covenant, depending on the precise terms, you could wind up having to decline job offers, set aside career aspirations or relocate to further your professional ambitions.
Your career, your rights
While these covenants may seem daunting, remember that you have rights and options.
Before you put pen to paper, take the time to review the contract thoroughly. It’s within your rights to seek clarification and, if necessary, negotiate terms that better suit your career plans. You also have the right to work with a lawyer experienced in navigating these contracts and negotiations. Keep in mind that an employment contract is a mutual agreement, and you have a voice in this legal relationship.
If you have already entered into an employment contract that contains a restrictive covenant, you may wish to obtain personal legal advice about whether or not that restrictive covenant is enforceable and how it could affect your career moving forward. Obtaining this kind of advice is crucial if you are considering embarking on business activities that could arguably fall within the scope of the restrictive covenant.
Charting your course
As you navigate the complexities of restrictive covenants, remember that this is your career path to chart. While companies may have legitimate reasons for including these clauses, it’s equally important for you to consider your long-term goals. A clear understanding of these covenants can help ensure that the steps you take today don’t limit where you can go tomorrow.