Guest Author: Matthew R. Hartranft, partner at Brutlag, Trucke & Doherty, P.A.

Minnesota’s new law marks a significant change in non-compete agreements, requiring employers to rethink employer-employee contracts.

Introduction to Non-Compete Agreements

Non-compete agreements, a type of restrictive covenant, are contracts where employees agree not to enter into competition with their employer after leaving the company. Such agreements aim to protect the employer’s legitimate business interests, including proprietary information, trade secrets, and client relationships. These agreements are especially common in industries where specialized knowledge is crucial, such as construction, technology, and healthcare.

Non-solicitation agreements, another form of restrictive covenant, prevent former employees from poaching their ex-employer’s clients or employees. Both non-compete and non-solicitation agreements aim to safeguard a business’s trade secrets, client bases, and the investment made in developing a workforce’s skills and expertise.

The general public often views non-compete agreements with skepticism, perceiving them as restrictive to workers’ future employment opportunities. Despite this, they are common in various sectors, especially where employees have access to sensitive competitive information.

Historically, Minnesota courts have enforced non-compete agreements provided they were reasonable in scope, geography, and duration, aiming to balance protecting business interests without unduly restricting individuals’ employment opportunities.

The Shift in Legal Landscape

Recent efforts by the U.S. Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), spurred by an executive order from President Biden pledging to promote competition in the American economy, have led to increased scrutiny of non-compete agreements. The FTC’s proposed rule under the Sherman Act, and the Justice Department’s support, highlighted a federal attack on restrictive covenants, setting the stage for Minnesota’s legislative response.

Minnesota’s Ban on Non-Compete Agreements

On May 16, 2023, Minnesota passed a significant bill banning new non-compete agreements, marking a pivotal change in how employment contracts are handled within the state. The law is effective for agreements signed after its activation date. Employees forced to enforce their rights under the statute can seek injunctive relief and attorney’s fees.

Proponents of the new law, like Governor Tim Walz, argue that banning non-competes will foster a more dynamic labor market by allowing employees greater freedom to move between jobs without the fear of legal repercussions. Supporters argued that this, in theory, should lead to a more competitive and innovative business environment, with fewer workers restricted from sharing their skills and experiences across companies. On the other hand, critics of the law, including some business leaders and legal experts, contend the law could undermine the protection of trade secrets and confidential business information, potentially hampering businesses’ competitiveness.

The new legislation applies to all employees, contractors, and volunteers, regardless of their position and regardless of the employer’s location, but it does not affect non-solicitation, non-disclosure, or confidentiality agreements. These types of agreements remain enforceable, allowing businesses to continue protecting their vital interests without resorting to non-compete clauses.

Notably, the law provides exceptions for non-compete agreements related to the sale or dissolution of a business, where such agreements can be enforced if they are reasonable in geographic scope and duration. The hope is that this will be enough to enable business owners to protecting their investment and the integrity of the acquired business’s clientele and market position.

Practical Guide for Navigating the New Law

For agreements signed before the effective date of July 1, 2023, the status quo remains; these agreements will be evaluated based on the existing legal framework in Minnesota, which requires reasonableness in the protection of business interests. For new agreements post-effective date, businesses and legal practitioners must navigate carefully, relying on other types of protective agreements and ensuring compliance with the new regulations.

Businesses operating in Minnesota must review and potentially revise their employment contracts and practices to align with the new law. This may involve strengthening non-disclosure and non-solicitation clauses while removing or adjusting non-compete clauses to fit within the narrow exceptions permitted by the law. But employers must exercise caution, as merely changing the titles or superficial aspects of restrictive covenants will not circumvent judicial examination. Courts will delve into the substance of any agreement to ensure that non-competition terms are not disguised under different nomenclature or embedded within other contractual provisions, and will seek to enforce the spirit of the law against non-competition restrictions.


Minnesota’s ban on new non-compete agreements signifies a significant shift affecting employee mobility and competition. By understanding the nuances of the new law and adjusting practices accordingly, businesses can ensure legal compliance while effectively protecting their interests. This change encourages a reevaluation of how competitive advantages and proprietary information are safeguarded in employment relationships, ensuring that both businesses and individuals can navigate their professional engagements with clarity and confidence.


Brutlag, Trucke & Doherty, P.A., renowned for over thirty years of exceptional legal service, proudly extends its reach beyond the Metro area to rural Minnesota, Wisconsin, South Dakota, and Iowa. We are thrilled to announce Matt Hartranft as the firm’s latest partner. With a commitment to enhancing our business legal landscape, Matt’s addition promises to further elevate our team’s capability to deliver unparalleled service to our esteemed clients.

Discover more about our firm and the breadth of services we offer by visiting Brutlag, Trucke & Doherty, P.A.