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This is in Ontario, Canada in an IT company.

Recently I have received a job offer from a US based company, at their branch in Ottawa. The company and I have been in discussion for weeks negotiating the terms, at no point I was told about a non-compete clause. The offer letter I was sent also did not mention about it, it said there is a privacy agreement that will need to be signed, but the privacy agreement was not sent to me. I assumed this is a standard privacy agreement to keep information private and I took the offer. May be this was my mistake, I should have explicitly asked to send the privacy document before accepting the offer.

One day before the start date, the company sent me the privacy agreement, to my surprise, includes a non-compete clause, which states if I am terminated by myself or by the company for any just or unjust cause, I cannot take employment of any of their competitor for 12 months. There is no clarification what is meant by competitor.

By this time, I have already resigned from my old job and made significant plans to join the new one. When I asked the new company why they kept it hidden or what is the definition of competitor, they do not provide any straight answer, just keeps hinting this is not a big deal, everyone signs it. They say they cannot strike out the clause and want me to sign with acknowledgement that it was done voluntarily and without any duress or undue influence by the Company. I do have emails where I expressed my concerns and their reply.

I would not have taken the offer if I knew about the non-compete or at least negotiated before I resigned from my previous company. I feel I have been deliberately put into this position, where it is difficult to walk out and become jobless, which I am not in a position to become.

Is it lawful for a company in Canada to hide substantial clause on the contract until the very last moment?

Do I have any other option than to be forced into the NCC?

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You have three options here

  1. Sign and accept
  2. Decline and find a new job
  3. Negotiate

Non competes are mostly nuisance and in many locales there are either invalid or not enforceable. Ontario seems to be "not enforceable" https://www.osler.com/uploadedfiles/our_people/profiles/h/restrictive%20covenants%20in%20employment%20contracts.pdf

Since it is a US based employer, you way want to check which legislation governs your contract.

  • "At their branch in Ottawa" suggests that the employer is actually a Canadian subsidiary of the US company. The chance that US law would be implicated is virtually nil. – phoog Sep 11 '18 at 15:45

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