Like the courts in many other jurisdictions, New York's courts have made clear their disfavor for non-compete agreements, noting that they inherently impinge on a person's ability to change jobs, perhaps to earn more money, and remain in their chosen field.
Unlike some other jurisdictions, such as California, there are some limited circumstances and individuals against whom New York's courts will enforce a non-compete.
Typically, those circumstances are limited to key employees that are "unique."
Why New York's Courts Won't Enforce a Non-Compete Against Non-Unique Employees
In truth, New York's courts, for the reason set forth above, only grudgingly allowed non-competes to be enforced at all. But, they acnkowledged, there are some instances where an employer has a legitimate interest in keeping an employee from leaving to go work for an arch-competitor. And that, i.e., the employer's legitimate interest, is the primary underlying factor in determining the enforceability of these kinds of agreements.
As a result, when an employee is truly irreplaceable, and was paid a premium to retain the company's truly confidential, proprietary information secret, there is a fair chance that a New York court will uphold his non-compete.
Conversely, this also means that a New York court should, more often than not, decline to enforce the non-compete against a non-unique employee.