What You Need to Know Before Signing a Non-compete Agreement in MA


(Last Updated On: May 10, 2023)

Woman signing Non-compete agreement

In Massachusetts, non-compete agreements are subject to strict legal requirements and limitations to prevent unfair restraints on employees. If you’re an MA worker who is considering signing a non-compete agreement, it’s crucial to understand your rights and obligations. Let’s explore the essential factors you should be aware of before entering into such an agreement. 

The Purpose & Scope of the Agreement 

First, carefully examine the purpose and scope of the non-compete agreement. Know the specific restrictions it imposes on your professional activities and the duration for which it remains in effect.  

Massachusetts law requires that noncompete agreements be limited in time, scope, geography, and supported by consideration. A non-compete must not be broader than necessary to protect one or more of the following legitimate business interests of the employer:  

  1. The employer’s trade secrets 
  1. The employer’s confidential information that otherwise would not qualify as a trade secret 
  1. The employer’s goodwill 

Written Agreement & Timing Requirements 

To be enforceable in Massachusetts, a non-compete agreement must be in writing and signed by both the employer and the employee. It must also expressly state that the employee has the right to consult with a lawyer prior to signing.  

Non-compete agreements presented in connection with the start of employment must be provided to the potential employee along with the formal offer letter or 10 business days before the employee’s start date, whichever occurs first. The same is true for non-compete agreements taking effect in the middle of the employment relationship: the employee must have 10 business days to review before it takes effect. Typically, to be enforceable, the employee must have resigned or have been terminated for cause.  

Consideration of the Non-compete Agreement 

Non-compete agreements must be supported by adequate consideration. This means that the employee must receive something of value in exchange for signing the agreement. The employee and employer can agree to the consideration, as long as it is included in the written agreement.  

The law also provides for “Garden Leave” as an acceptable form of consideration. Garden Leave is payment of at least 50% of the employee’s salary for the entirety of the restricted period.  

Reasonable Restriction 

To be enforceable, a non-compete agreement in Massachusetts must protect the legitimate business interests of the employer, such as trade secrets, confidential information, or customer relationships. In addition, the restrictions imposed on the employee must be reasonable and not overly burdensome.  

When reviewing a non-compete agreement, take the time to assess whether the proposed restrictions are necessary to safeguard the employer’s interests or if they unreasonably limit your ability to seek future employment opportunities. If you still have questions after personally reviewing the document, don’t hesitate to contact us at Rodman Employment Law.  

Duration and Geographic Limits 

Non-compete agreements in MA must specify a reasonable duration and geographic scope. They must also be geographically limited to the areas in which the employee provided services or had a material presence or influence any time during the last 2 years of employment. Furthermore, the restricted period of a non-compete cannot be longer than 12 months. 

Some Exemptions to Non-compete Agreements in MA 

It’s important to note that some professions and types of workers are immune from non-compete agreements in Massachusetts, including: 

  • Physicians 
  • Nurses 
  • Psychologists 
  • Social workers 
  • Broadcasting industry professionals
  • Lawyers

In addition, some categories of workers cannot have an enforceable non-compete agreement in our state. These include the following:  

  • Non-exempt workers 
  • Undergraduate or graduate students working as interns 
  • Children under 18 years of age 

Consult with an MA Employment Law Attorney 

By familiarizing yourself with the legal requirements and considering the factors mentioned above, you’re one step closer to making an informed decision when faced with a non-compete agreement in Massachusetts. But given the complex legal landscape surrounding non-compete agreements in MA, it’s advisable to consult an experienced employment law attorney before signing this document.  

An attorney can help you understand your rights, negotiate the terms, and ensure that your interests are adequately protected. We encourage you to contact us at 617-820-5250 if you need professional assistance with reviewing a non-compete agreement before signing it. Rodman Employment Law is here to protect your employment rights and ensure that any legal documents you sign are fair, given their potential to have long-lasting implications on your career prospects.

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