A non-compete agreement prohibits an employee or independent contractor from engaging in conduct that could compete with a business after an employment relationship ends. Non-competes may exist as part of a larger employment contract or they exist as a contract independent of any other terms of employment.
Non-competes are generally enforceable in Minnesota. However, Courts will be suspicious and less inclined to enforce agreements which are not narrowly tailored. Courts typically look at three elements of the non-compete to determine enforceability: scope of conduct prohibited; geographic area covered; and whether the restraint is reasonably necessary to protect "legitimate employer interests." These legimate interests may be to protect confidential information, trade secrets, customer goodwill, or specialized training or investments in employees, among other things.
If someone engages in conduct in violation of a non-compete, the first response is usually an informal request and then a "cease and desist letter" demanding that the violative conduct stop. Should those efforts fail, litigation will normally follow in which the party attempting to enforce the non-compete will sequentially request a temporary restraining order ("TRO"), a temporary injunction, and finally a permanent injunction, plus any applicable damages and fees.
These lawsuits can implicate the former employee's new employer under certain circumstances as well, so extra caution is warranted if you are looking to hire an employee already subject to a non-compete. The claims against the new employer are usually framed as intentional or tortious interference with contract. See that section for additional information.