During a recent episode of the HBO drama “The Newsroom,” the show’s protagonist, Will McAvoy, a cable news anchor in the mold of Dan Rather (with a dash of Keith Olbermann) learns that his corporate higher-ups have orchestrated a smear campaign as a pretext for eventually terminating his employment. 

Also revealed is the fact that upon Will’s ouster, the network would enforce a non-compete agreement in his contract, keeping him off the air for three years. 

As an attorney who has litigated the validity of non-compete agreements on behalf of both employers and employees in a variety of industries, I asked myself whether, in the real world, Will’s non-compete would be enforceable.

The turn of events also reminded me why a vast range of employers, including manufacturers, use non-competes in the first place.

Both small and large business owners depend on skilled employees to engender company success and growth. Simultaneously, employers operate with a reasonable concern that their valuable employees might jump ship to join a competitor. 

This can be a daunting experience for a company that has expended considerable resources training that employee, providing her with proprietary information about the company’s processes and procedures, and offering access to customer information.

Similarly, employees reasonably desire to reach their professional goals and protect their own ability to earn a living without outside interference. These competing interests have equal validity and are the kinds of concerns that have been tackled by courts for years, with varying outcomes.