One morning last week I came in to work and found a couple of documents on my desk. There was a post-it note from the boss atop them, saying he needed them signed for his attorney or somesuch.
One of them was a standard nondisclosure agreement. Nothing unexpected or concerning there; I work with private financial information and it’s perfectly reasonable to have me sign an agreement not to share that information around.
The other one was a non-compete agreement. I’ve never seen one, so I don’t know if it was standard or not, but it did concern me. For one thing, I’ve been doing some volunteer bookkeeping for a local nonprofit—nothing fancy, just helping them reconcile their bank accounts after they got a few months behind. But technically, under the terms of this agreement, I would not be able to do that any more. For another thing, it contained a clause about how I wasn’t to work in the field for [months/years] after my employment at this job ends. Unless this job offers some kind of severance deal to support me during those months/years, I’m going to need to find another one, and since our boss doesn’t even like us working overtime because of the cost, I’m pretty sure there’s no severance package.
But that part where it said [months/years]: that’s actually what it said. Whoever had printed out the non-compete template had neglected to replace “[months/years]” with a specific time frame. So I took that as an easy way out; I signed the nondisclosure agreement, then returned both to my boss and told him I hadn’t signed the non-compete because of the spot where it hadn’t been completed. I was kind of hoping that it would fall through the cracks and never be mentioned again, because I don’t think I’m willing to sign a document that prohibits me from earning a living.
At the time, I assumed I was the only one who’d gotten the papers to sign, because I’m the newest one there.
Just before we all left for the holiday break, two other co-workers snagged me on the way out to ask me if I’d gotten some papers to sign.
I said, “You mean the nondisclosure and non-compete agreements? Yeah, I signed the nondisclosure, but the non-compete one didn’t specify a time period so I didn’t sign that one.”
“Good,” said the other co-worker. “Good to know. Thanks!”
Apparently I’m not the only one who got them, and not the only one who was concerned. I didn’t mean to be seditious, really I didn’t…