Preliminary Injunctions and Employment-based Non-Compete Agreements


In the arena of employment law, the use of non-compete agreements presents a unique set of challenges and considerations, particularly when disputes escalate to the need for preliminary injunctions. This post explores the nature of preliminary injunctions within the context of employment-based non-compete agreements, offering insights into the legal standards and considerations that courts, former employers, employees, and new employers must navigate.

Understanding Preliminary Injunctions

A preliminary injunction is a legal remedy sought in court to temporarily restrain a party from taking certain actions until the resolution of a lawsuit. In the context of non-compete agreements, employers may seek preliminary injunctions to prevent former employees from working with competitors or starting a competing business, arguing that such actions would cause irreparable harm to their business interests. Most non-compete disputes are won or lost at the preliminary injunction stage.

Legal Standards for Granting Preliminary Injunctions

The court’s decision to grant a preliminary injunction hinge on three critical criteria:

  1. Likelihood of Success on the Merits: The petitioner must demonstrate a strong chance of prevailing in the underlying lawsuit concerning the non-compete agreement.
  1. Irreparable Harm: There must be a clear indication that the petitioner will suffer harm that cannot be adequately remedied by monetary damages alone.
  1. Balance of Equities: The court weighs the petitioner's need for protection against the potential harm the injunction may cause to the defendant, ensuring the measure is just and equitable.

Court’s Review of Non-Compete Agreements

When reviewing non-compete agreements in the context of preliminary injunction proceedings, courts closely examine several factors:

  • Legitimate Business Interests: Employers must prove that the non-compete agreement protects against unfair competition, such as the disclosure of trade secrets or confidential information, and is not merely an attempt to stifle competition.
  • Reasonableness: Courts assess the scope, duration, and geographical limitations of the non-compete agreement to ensure they are reasonable and necessary to protect legitimate business interests without unduly restricting the employee's ability to work.
  • Public Interest: The court considers the impact of enforcing the non-compete agreement on public interest, including the availability of services in the market.

Considerations for Parties Involved

  • Former Employers: Should be prepared to substantiate the existence of legitimate business interests that the non-compete agreement seeks to protect and demonstrate the potential for irreparable harm if the agreement is breached.
  • Former Employees: Need to understand the terms of their non-compete agreements and assess their actions against the agreement's restrictions. Challenging the reasonableness of the agreement or proving compliance can be effective defenses.
  • New Employers: Must conduct due diligence when hiring individuals subject to non-compete agreements to avoid legal entanglements. Understanding the specifics of the non-compete agreement and the role the new employee will play can help mitigate risks.


Preliminary injunctions serve as a critical tool for enforcing non-compete agreements, yet they require a careful balancing of interests between protecting business interests and preserving individuals' rights to employment. Both former and new employers, along with employees, must navigate these legal waters with a thorough understanding of the standards and considerations at play. The complexities of non-compete agreements and the high stakes involved in preliminary injunctions demand a strategic and informed approach to litigation and dispute resolution, particularly because they are never the same: they are fact-based analyses of the specific and unique circumstances of each dispute.

If you are facing concerns related to a similar issue or if you have questions about your Employment Law situation, please feel free to contact us here. We have many years of experience handling such matters and will be able to assist you in resolving the dispute.

To learn more about these topics, you may want to review our information provided on these pages: Employment Law, Breach of Contract, Restrictive Covenants, Non-Solicitation Agreement, Non-Compete Agreement.

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