There can be no denying it–we live in a global economy. From the daily news we ingest, the type of shopping we do, and the nature of our employment and business relationships, our social and business interactions extend to the outer reaches of the globe.
But have U.S. employment laws, such as the law on non-compete agreements in North Carolina, kept up with our transition from a local to global economy? The Honorable Judge Steelman of the North Carolina Court of Appeals does not think so. In a concurring opinion in the recent case of Horner v. McKoy, (March 4, 2014), analyzing the validity of a non-compete agreement under traditional principles, Judge Steelman took the opportunity to note, “[a]t the time that our law in the area of restrictive employment covenants was developed, much of our commerce was local, and restrictive covenants were imposed only to protect specific local interests. Any covenants that attempted to protect broader commercial interests were held to be invalid as an improper restraint of trade. Today’s economy is global in nature” and “[o]ur Supreme Court should re-evaluate the law of restrictive covenants in the context of changed economic conditions to allow restrictions upon competing business activities for a specific period of time, limited to a specific, narrow type of business, but with fewer geographic limitations.” (emphasis added).
While global geographical restrictions are presumptively invalid in North Carolina, perhaps it is time to re-consider the issue in view of the growing niche of highly specialized global industries.