As a lawyer who represents individuals in non-compete lawsuits, I understand the complexities and intricacies that these agreements often contain. Non-compete agreements can be a veritable minefield of stipulations and clauses, and among these, there is one provision that frequently flies under the radar: the “forum selection clause.”
The forum selection clause is a provision that determines where a lawsuit will be heard. (There is also usually a “choice of law” provision that provides what state’s law will govern.) Implications of this seemingly innocuous clause can be substantial and, more often than not, unfair to the individual bound by the agreement.
Imagine you’re a resident of South Carolina and you’ve signed a non-compete with your employer. Then, you find yourself embroiled in a dispute over the alleged violation of this agreement. Much to your surprise, the forum selection clause in your agreement states that any legal proceedings must take place in Delaware. Suddenly, you’re not only grappling with the lawsuit, but also the added logistics and costs of defending yourself in an unfamiliar jurisdiction, possibly one with very different laws pertaining to non-competes.
Why does this matter? Because it adds an extra layer of complexity and expense to your defense. You’ll need to hire legal counsel familiar with Delaware law, possibly travel for court appearances, and navigate a legal system that could be vastly different from your home state’s.
This practice shifts the balance of power towards the party with the deeper pockets, usually the company. They may have offices across various states, a team of lawyers at their disposal, and resources to handle lawsuits anywhere in the country. However, such a situation can be overwhelming and burdensome for an individual.
In an ideal world, a dispute about a non-compete agreement would be heard in the state where you live and work. This makes sense as you’re more likely to be familiar with the laws and practices in your home state. But, alas, the reality can be quite different.
So, what can you do about it? The key lies in understanding the non-compete agreement thoroughly before signing it. Pay careful attention to the forum selection clause. Ask questions. Seek legal advice. Remember, knowledge is power, and being aware of what you’re agreeing to can save you potential hardships down the line.
At our law firm, we believe in equipping individuals with the knowledge and resources they need to stand up for their rights. If you’re currently facing a non-compete dispute or want to understand more about non-compete agreements, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us. We’re here to help.