Can my company insist on a noncompete and prevent me from working?

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My employer fired me and then said that I had signed a noncompete agreement preventing me from going to a competitor for a year. What I do is very specialized, and they don’t even define who a competitor is. Can they prevent me from earning a living?

For the uninitiated: Noncompete agreements are either stand alone contracts or a clause that is part of a larger employment contract.

They are meant to protect a company’s business interests and confidential information, which is understandable.

However, with few exceptions they pose undue hardship on ex-employees by limiting their job opportunities.

Many states have banned them, and the New York legislature has just done so, too.

So unless you are a senior executive getting paid for the year while you sit on the sidelines, chances are you won’t be restricted from where you can work, though you do have to honor your obligation not to reveal or use confidential information from your current company. Speak to a lawyer.

College students can still have a productive summer even without landing an internship.
College students can still have a productive summer even without landing an internship.

I’m a college junior desperate for a summer job before my senior year. I got started late and now all of the good internships are taken. Should I offer to work for free? I just want the experience. What do you think?

I think it demonstrates that you are a desperate college student who for some reason couldn’t land an internship.

Besides, unless you are getting college credit or the job is part of some school requirement, it’s nearly impossible for an employer to use free interns without violating the labor laws.

So even if they were willing to give you a shot but didn’t have the budget, they wouldn’t be able to.

That said, I would continue networking and pursuing an internship because needs change and some interns don’t work out.

Come up with a good rationale for why you are only looking now — maybe say that you understand this is late in the game but your summer plans have changed, and then be confident about what you can offer.

In the meantime, find something else useful to do.

There are plenty of nonprofits who can hire volunteers and at least your time spent will do good and look good for you, too.

Gregory Giangrande has over 25 years of experience as a chief human resources executive. Hear Greg Wed. at 9:35 a.m. on iHeartRadio 710 WOR with Len Berman and Michael Riedel. Email: Follow: and on Twitter: @GregGiangrande

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