Learning About Non-Compete Agreements in Illinois: What You Need to Know

Non-compete agreements, often called restrictive covenants, are common legal tools used by employers to protect their business interests. In the state of Illinois, these agreements are subject to specific rules and regulations that both employers and employees should understand. This blog post will provide an overview of non-compete agreements in Illinois, including their purpose, enforceability, and key considerations.

Purpose of Non-Compete Agreements

Non-compete agreements serve as legal contracts between employers and employees. The primary purpose of these agreements is to protect the employer’s legitimate business interests. These interests may include safeguarding trade secrets, customer relationships, and preventing unfair competition. Non-competes are typically used in industries where employees have access to sensitive information and trade secrets, such as technology, healthcare, and finance.

Enforceability in Illinois

Illinois, like many states, has specific laws and regulations regarding non-compete agreements to balance the interests of both employers and employees. In general, for a non-compete agreement to be enforceable in Illinois, it must meet the following criteria:

  1. Legitimate Business Interest: The non-compete must protect a legitimate business interest, such as confidential information, trade secrets, customer relationships, or specialized training.
  2. Reasonable Scope: The agreement’s restrictions must be reasonable in terms of geographic scope, duration, and the nature of the activities restricted. Overly broad restrictions may be deemed unenforceable.
  3. Adequate Consideration: The employee must receive adequate consideration in exchange for signing the agreement. This can include a job offer, a raise, or other benefits.
  4. Public Policy: The agreement must not violate public policy or statutory law. For example, non-competes cannot prevent employees from pursuing their livelihood or career.
  5. Special Provisions for Low-Wage Employees: Illinois law contains special provisions that limit the use of non-compete agreements for low-wage employees, making it more difficult for employers to enforce them in these cases.

Key Considerations for Employees

If you are an employee in Illinois considering signing a non-compete agreement, it is essential to understand the implications and take the following factors into account:

  1. Review the Agreement Carefully: Read the agreement thoroughly to understand the scope of the restrictions and the duration of the non-compete. Seek legal advice if necessary.
  2. Negotiate Terms: You may have the opportunity to negotiate the terms of the agreement with your employer. This can include narrowing the geographic scope or limiting the duration of the non-compete.
  3. Seek Legal Counsel: Consulting with an attorney who specializes in employment law can help you navigate the complexities of non-compete agreements and assess their enforceability.
  4. Document the Circumstances: Keep records of any discussions or promises made during the negotiation of the non-compete agreement. This can be useful in the event of a legal dispute.

Key Considerations for Employers

Employers in Illinois who wish to utilize non-compete agreements should also be aware of the following considerations:

  1. Tailor the Agreement: Customize non-compete agreements to fit the specific circumstances of the employee’s role and the business’s needs. Generic, one-size-fits-all agreements are more likely to be challenged.
  2. Ensure Adequate Consideration: To enhance the enforceability of the agreement, offer employees fair and adequate consideration, such as signing bonuses or specialized training.
  3. Periodic Review: Regularly review and update non-compete agreements to ensure they remain relevant and continue to protect legitimate business interests.
  4. Consult Legal Counsel: It is advisable to seek legal advice when drafting or enforcing non-compete agreements to avoid potential legal challenges.


Non-compete agreements in Illinois serve a vital role in protecting employers’ legitimate business interests. However, both employers and employees must be aware of the legal framework and requirements surrounding these agreements to ensure they are enforceable and just. When approached with fairness and careful consideration, non-compete agreements can be a valuable tool in maintaining a competitive and secure business environment in the state of Illinois.

Contact one of our non-compete agreement attorneys for a free consultation at 630-333-0333 or contact us online here.

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