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Translation PM job with "non compete" agreement (USA). Please advise
Thread poster: d3trad
d3trad
United States
Local time: 00:25
Jan 29, 2016

I would appreciate anyone's advice or thoughts on this matter.
I have a job offer as Translation Project Manager for a small company starting a base in the US. I like the offer because it includes thorough training and a stable salary (after freelancing 6 years I feel drawn to move into a PM job for the stability and possibility for long-term commitment and working more closely with other people, etc).

Still, this 'Non Compete' agreement worries me.

Namely, it says that if things do not work out and I leave the company, I'm not allowed to work in the translation industry for _three years_, and not just that, but I can't do this work _anywhere in the world_.

Has anyone here seen or heard of this kind of agreement before? I want to know if it's truly enforceable (initial Googling makes me think it is), or just an intimidation tactic.


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Dan Lucas  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 05:25
Member (2014)
Japanese to English
Not in the UK Jan 29, 2016

d3trad wrote:
Namely, it says that if things do not work out and I leave the company, I'm not allowed to work in the translation industry for _three years_, and not just that, but I can't do this work _anywhere in the world_.

In the UK attempts to impose restraints on trade that severe would not fly. Three years, anywhere in the world?! It has to be a reasonable restriction. However, the US might well be different. You really should talk to a local lawyer.

But also consider what kind of company tries to enforce clauses of this kind. Do you not think that attitude will also extend to how they treat you in other ways? Promotions, training, sick days, annual leave, overtime...?

Regards
Dan


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 05:25
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
You'd have to give up your whole career? Jan 29, 2016

That's got to be crazy, surely?? But the law is sometimes crazy so maybe it's true - I really don't know. But I thought these clauses were just to stop you stealing their clients if you got a job with another agency or set up as a freelancer again. To prevent you pursuing your normal career path is way more than preventing you from competing unfairly, in my book.

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d3trad
United States
Local time: 00:25
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks! Jan 29, 2016

Thanks for the quick responses, guys!

Dan Lucas wrote:
But also consider what kind of company tries to enforce clauses of this kind. Do you not think that attitude will also extend to how they treat you in other ways? Promotions, training, sick days, annual leave, overtime...?

You are right, and this has been quite a disappointment because during the interview and initial negotiation process, they had mentioned this agreement but I assumed it meant that I wouldn't be allowed to operate my own agency on the side, or freelance for other clients--things like that, not something that would force me to change industries completely should I ever be dismissed or feel compelled to quit.
Since everything else about the offer has been so reasonable, and even exciting to me, I wasn't suspicious about this non-compete until I finally received it.


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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 05:25
Member (2008)
Italian to English
My advice Jan 29, 2016

You asked for advice.

Mine is: walk away while you still can.


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Joakim Braun  Identity Verified
Sweden
Local time: 06:25
German to Swedish
+ ...
Simple Jan 29, 2016

If it doesn't seem fair to you, don't sign it.
It doesn't matter what anyone here thinks.

(Of course you shouldn't sign anything like that, enforcable or not!)


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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 05:25
Member (2008)
Italian to English
You were being led up the garden path Jan 29, 2016

d3trad wrote:

Thanks for the quick responses, guys!

Dan Lucas wrote:
But also consider what kind of company tries to enforce clauses of this kind. Do you not think that attitude will also extend to how they treat you in other ways? Promotions, training, sick days, annual leave, overtime...?

You are right, and this has been quite a disappointment because during the interview and initial negotiation process, they had mentioned this agreement but I assumed it meant that I wouldn't be allowed to operate my own agency on the side, or freelance for other clients--things like that, not something that would force me to change industries completely should I ever be dismissed or feel compelled to quit.
Since everything else about the offer has been so reasonable, and even exciting to me, I wasn't suspicious about this non-compete until I finally received it.


You were being led up the garden path. They wasted a lot of your time, and were probably actually planning to use you for something else. If there's any way you can warn off other applicants for this job, I suggest you do the right thing and let them know, if you can.


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Dan Lucas  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 05:25
Member (2014)
Japanese to English
Worry about yourself Jan 29, 2016

Tom in London wrote:
If there's any way you can warn off other applicants for this job, I suggest you do the right thing and let them know, if you can.

No Tom that's unfair, don't try to guilt the OP into that. The OP is not responsible for other people. If they're careful and thoughtful the other applicants will do their due diligence and do what the OP has done - take advice. If they don't, that's their look out.

Dan


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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 05:25
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Helping others Jan 29, 2016

Dan Lucas wrote:

Tom in London wrote:
If there's any way you can warn off other applicants for this job, I suggest you do the right thing and let them know, if you can.

No Tom that's unfair, don't try to guilt the OP into that. The OP is not responsible for other people. If they're careful and thoughtful the other applicants will do their due diligence and do what the OP has done - take advice. If they don't, that's their look out.

Dan


Doesn't helping others when you can fall within your Weltanschauung? Has it got this bad? Surely even an ex-Japan stock market investment analyst has some humanity left?

[Edited at 2016-01-29 12:32 GMT]


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Dan Lucas  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 05:25
Member (2014)
Japanese to English
Possibly Jan 29, 2016

Tom in London wrote:
Doesn't helping others when you can fall within your Weltanschauung? Has it got this bad? Surely even an ex-Japan stock market investment analyst has some humanity left?

Well, maybe all my humanity has indeed been burned away in the purifying fire of the markets.

Or maybe I'm just not in the habit of using moral suasion on a person I don't know, operating in situations I may not understand, with the intent of coercing that person into helping other persons also completely unknown to me and whom I unilaterally decide are deserving of help, despite all parties living half a world away from me.

Dan


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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 05:25
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Jesus Jan 29, 2016

Dan Lucas wrote:

Tom in London wrote:
Doesn't helping others when you can fall within your Weltanschauung? Has it got this bad? Surely even an ex-Japan stock market investment analyst has some humanity left?

Well, maybe all my humanity has indeed been burned away in the purifying fire of the markets.

Or maybe I'm just not in the habit of using moral suasion on a person I don't know, operating in situations I may not understand, with the intent of coercing that person into helping other persons also completely unknown to me and whom I unilaterally decide are deserving of help, despite all parties living half a world away from me.

Dan



I confess that this type of reaction leaves me with my mouth hanging open.

So it *has* got this bad.

[Edited at 2016-01-29 12:37 GMT]


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Lori Cirefice  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 06:25
French to English
Not sure about the US... Jan 29, 2016

In France and possibly other European countries, this type of clause would usually be for one year or less, never three years. It would only be enforceable if it was associated with a reasonable compensation in exchange. I think this type of clause is quite rare because of that restriction, the compensation has to be quite significant to justify such a clause. I'm referring to employment contracts here, not a contract with an independent contractor - it wasn't clear to me whether you were applying for a salaried or freelance position.

In the US though, the situation may be quite different.

In any case, I think you should start by telling them you're not comfortable with that clause and see how they react. Offer some alternate wording that you're comfortable with (something that confirms you won't steal their clients or breach confidentiality in any way). Depending on how they react, you'll either walk away knowing that you did the right thing, or you'll end up with a contract you can live with.


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Iris Schmerda  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 06:25
French to German
+ ...
Never Jan 29, 2016

I wouldn't touch them with a ten-foot pole.

What happens if they should fire you after a month or so?

You wouldn't even be allowed to get back to your freelance activity and so would lose all your clients. Your career as a translator would be over, and then, three years later, you would be allowed to start everything from scratch for the second time.
Must be a crazy company.


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Kevin Fulton  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 00:25
German to English
Unreasonable Jan 29, 2016

One principle of contract law is "reasonableness" which means that the terms of a contract must be fair to both parties. A valid contract usually involves an offer, acceptance and consideration. In this case you provide services for payment.

I can't comment on the legality of the contract you've been offered, and you're better off not signing than taking a chance on having the terms of the contract declared null and void in a court of law.

That said, I've seen non-compete clauses stipulating that the signee refrain from working for a competing company within a certain radius of the company's place of business, or preventing the signee from contacting customers of that company, usually with a time limit of one or two years. Thus a company could reasonably restrict you from working for a competing agency within a 50-mile radius of Miami, for example. Likewise it is reasonable to prevent you from contacting their customers after terminating employment for a specified period.

However, an industry-wide ban does not pass the reasonableness test, unless the company is willing to compensate you, that is, provide consideration for your leaving the industry.

If the company is demanding an industry-wide non-compete clause, it's probably not worth the effort to negotiate with them.


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Livia D'Ettorre  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 06:25
Member (2005)
English to Italian
+ ...
No way! Jan 29, 2016

Sheila Wilson wrote:

That's got to be crazy, surely?? But the law is sometimes crazy so maybe it's true - I really don't know. But I thought these clauses were just to stop you stealing their clients if you got a job with another agency or set up as a freelancer again. To prevent you pursuing your normal career path is way more than preventing you from competing unfairly, in my book.


I agree with Sheila. Usually this kind of clauses are there to stop you from stealing their clients. For example, when I was working as a PM I signed a contract where it said that I was not allowed to get in touch with their clients for two years, which to me is fair enough. I know that other agencies do not allow you to work as a freelance translator while working for them, but there is no way I would sign a contract where it says that I am not allowed to work in the translation industry for 3 years!
Good luck!


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