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Corporate Governess: Can you get out of a non-compete contract? Add to ...

Dear Corporate Governess

I’ve been offered a better job by a competitor, but I signed a non-compete contract when I joined my current firm. Is it legally binding? Is there any way to get out of it?
—Audrey N., Vancouver

Dear Audrey
It depends on whether you’re a big fish or small fry. Canadian courts are reluctant to uphold non-competes against those of us who need to work to eat, but are less sympathetic toward senior-level employees who might take clients or high-level secrets with them out the door. If you fall into the latter category, your employer could sue you for damages, making you liable for the value of any losses incurred. That could hurt.

But all is not lost. Whether or not you’re still able to wriggle out of this contract depends on how well it’s written. Many non-competes are judged to be unfair as a result of excessive restrictions. If the time period is unreasonably long or the specified geographic area bigger than necessary to protect your former employer, a court might declare your non-compete void. Similarly, if you signed under duress (as in, “sign this or you don’t get the job,” or you didn’t have enough time to see a lawyer) that could invalidate the contract. But I wouldn’t merely guess—talk to an employment lawyer before making a move.

Dear Corporate Governess
I work with a Trump lover. He isn’t an outright racist,  but he defends Trump at every opportunity. How do I deal with this guy?
—Erika B., Toronto

Dear Erika
With all due respect, if you see yourself changing this guy’s mind with a rational argument backed up by (non-alternative) facts, get over it. There are plenty of studies, from Stanford to Yale, proving that once someone forms an opinion, they seldom change their mind, even when confronted with hard evidence. (The perfect example: Trump himself.)

So your first line of defence is to simply not engage with this man. Slip on a pair of noise-cancelling headphones whenever you sense a fake-news rant coming on. If that’s not an option, politely and calmly disagree, and let him know that his comments are inappropriate. Labelling him (or Trump) a racist or other incendiary name will only lead to defensive reactions—you’re not trying to reform him, just encourage a little reflection. (That said, if he, or any other co-worker, veers into overt racism or sexism, speak up and, if necessary, pay a visit to HR.)

In the meantime, throw some subtle shade at your Trump-loving co-worker by keeping a copy of All the President’s Men displayed prominently on your desk.

 

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