When Competition is a Bad Word


Chris McCarty a shareholder in our Knoxville office, practices in the areas of employment law, education law and general civil litigation. Mr. McCarty handles matters before state and federal courts throughout Tennessee, as well as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). He also advises and represents various school boards, including Sevier County, Bristol City and Claiborne County. Mr. McCarty frequently presents on employment and education law topics, and his articles on those topics have been seen in numerous publications, including HR Magazine and the Knoxville Business Journal.

I clearly remember my worst job. Working at the Old Navy store in Sevierville, I spent my days wearing a headset that piped teenage girl/co-worker conversations directly into my inner ear. My folding skills were so bad that I quickly became the store Quasimodo, summoned from the back only when someone needed a cart moved or a rack changed.

Like so many Sevier County kids like me, though, my worst job didn’t last very long. I jumped from retail clothing to laser tag to go-carts. Competition for such a fluid workforce is expected in Pigeon Forge tourism, but competition is often discouraged and even nullified in the professional world.

More and more employers now ask employees to sign non-compete agreements. Tennessee courts maintain a complicated relationship with such agreements. As the Tennessee Supreme Court put it all the way back in 1960, “While contracts restraining employment are looked upon with disfavor in modern law, such contracts are sustained, in the absence of contrary statute and subject to the requirements as to limitations of time and space and as to reasonableness.”

What in the world does that mean? It simply means that our courts don’t like non-compete agreements, but they will still enforce reasonable ones. And determining “reasonable” comes down to two t’s: time and territory.

See the full article in the June 1, 2015 Knoxville Business Journal. 



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