Understanding Louisiana Non-Compete Law
Most states use a reasonableness test in determining whether a non-compete agreement is valid and enforceable. If reasonable as to scope, duration and geographical reach, such agreements are usually enforceable. Reasonableness, however, plays no role in Louisiana in determining the validity and enforceability of these agreements. Instead, strict compliance with a single statute determines whether these agreements will be upheld in Louisiana.
La. R.S. 23:921, Louisiana's controlling statute, begins with a general prohibition against any agreement whereby anyone is restrained from exercising a lawful profession, trade, or business, unless one of the narrow exceptions to the general prohibition contained therein has been satisfied. It provides:
Every contract or agreement, or provision thereof, above which anyone is restrained from exercising a lawful profession, trade, or business of any kind, except as provided in this section, shall be null and void.
This opening paragraph of La. R.S. 23:921 reflects Louisiana's strong public policy against these agreements. The exceptions to the general prohibition, for the most part, are based upon relationships. They include the employer/employee relationship, the sale of the goodwill of the business, the dissolution of a partnership, the Franchisor/Franchisee relationship and Employer/Computer Employee relationship. Additional exceptions added by the Louisiana Legislature in recent years are again based upon relationships. They include the Corporation/Shareholder relationship, the Partner/Partnership relationship, without consideration of any possible dissolution, and the Limited Liability Company/Member relationship.
Because these agreements are in derogation of the common right to earn a living, Louisiana jurisprudence has strictly construed these exceptions to the general prohibition. To fall within these exceptions, most Louisiana courts have required both non-compete and non-solicitation agreements to list the area of prohibition by parishes, municipalities, or parts thereof, together with a term of no longer than two (2) years from the date of termination of the relationship.
While not specifically contained within the statute, various Louisiana courts have also required that a valid non-compete agreement accurately define the business in which the individual is prohibited from competing. Other Louisiana courts deny the need for this additional non-statutory-based requirement. If the business is defined within the agreement, however, the definition should be narrow and accurate.
As demonstrated herein, non-compete agreements in Louisiana can be enforceable. Preparing non-compete agreements that comply with Louisiana law, however, is critical to their enforceability. Complying with Louisiana’s controlling statute is the most important aspect of preparing valid and enforceable agreements in Louisiana.