Did you sign a “back-door” Oklahoma non-compete?

Oklahoma non-compete law in the employment setting remains crystal clear: Non-competes are unenforeceable except in a couple of narrowly defined circumstances. That doesn’t mean some people won’t continue to try to accomplish indirectly what cannot be done directly.

This is where the back-door non compete comes in. What is a back-door noncompete?

It is a contract clause that despite not expressly limiting the former employee from working, effectively creates a market so small, it is like being prohibited from competing. Consider this example:

Employee covenants and agrees that during the period of time while employed by SMITH CO, and for a period of two years after the date of termination of such employment, whether voluntarily or involuntarily, with or without cause, the Employee shall not directly or indirectly render widget-making services of any type, including, but not limited to, traditional and Internet, to any person or entity, that during the 24-month period
immediately prior to Employee’s termination of employment with SMITH CO:


  1. SMITH CO provided any services to such person or entity;
  2. SMITH CO offered to provide any services to such person or entity; and/or
  3.  Such person or entity requested SMITH CO to pitch or bid to provide any services.

Notice of a couple of things:

➜at first glance while the former employee is limited from providing certain services, the limitation appears to be itself limited.
➜however, the limitation is written so broadly that it could apply to nearly every customer or potential customer the former employee would encounter.
➜while the employee can open a business, she simply can’t talk with most of the universe of customers that might be natural prospects.

This is the back-door non-compete. Beware.

Posted by Shawn Roberts

On this blog, I write about and try to answer practical Oklahoma legal questions. My focus and most experience is in estate planning and business issues including Oklahoma non-compete law. I make a living as an attorney in the law firm I founded, Shawn J. Roberts, P.C. in Oklahoma City. I live in Edmond with my wife Amy and my two children, Sam (19) and David (11). We live precisely in the path of where the "wind comes sweeping down the plains."

1 comment

Shawn Roberts

Thank you Suzie, I appreciate you reading the blog!