Legal Question in Employment Law in Ohio

My husband's employment contract calls for a "non-compete status with respect to ...any related fitness boot camp or other indoor boot camp service..." Overly broad? What is considered "fitness boot camp?" Can he open his own fitness class and call it something else, such as a "total body workout" class? Thank you!

Asked on 5/18/13, 9:48 am

1 Answer from Attorneys

Kelly Trautner Law Office of Kelly D. Trautner, LLC
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The answer to your question is, it depends. Non-compete type clauses in employment agreements are deisgned to protect an employer from unfair competition when an employee with special value to their business (e.g., knowledge, expertise, etc.) leaves their employ and goes elsewhere. Usually they are found in industries with a high degree of market competition and apply to job classifications where the employer would endure a great deal of exposure if persons in that classification accept employment with a direct competitor. For example, a non-compete clause would likely not be enforceable against a grocery store clerk.

Decisions from the courts protect employees from non-compete provisions that are overly broad, like where there are limits on duration and/or there is no geographic limitation. If the language you quote represents the entire non-compete provision, it sounds like the limitation might be overly broad for lack of providing for geographic and time restrictions. The reasonableness of these limitations often requires examination of the job classification and competitive market in question. For example, a one year non-compete provision restricting an employee from pursuing a like position in a 50 mile radius from the employer's place of business could be enforceable for a sales person assigned to a surrounding metropolitan area.

A full factual analysis of your husband's specific situation would be necessary to formulate a concrete answer. Unfortunately, this is a hotly litigated area with ever-changing developments. The good news is that the courts have indicated an interest in offering greater protection to employees in these times of tough job markets. So your question is definitely worth additional exploration. I hope this information is helpful.

The fitness bootcamp or other indoor bootcamp service is fairly specific and applies to what could be considered a highly competitive industry. There could conceivably be some arguments against enforcement if the new position requires a different type of training or certification than the first. For example, if the contract covered a general high intensity aerobic class where a general exercise certificate was required and the second was something that required very specific training and a distinct certification (maybe like Crossfit), there might be an solid out from the non-compete.

Finally, your question indicates your husband is working under an employment contract. But to be sure, independent contractor agreements that contain non-compete provisos are likely unenfoceable. But the converse is not true. Protecting an employer from an employee taking proprietary and competitive value from the company and competing in his or her own startup is precisely the type of protection permitted by non-competes- giving consideration to other factors, like those described above.

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5/18/13, 10:37 am

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