Employers routinely require employees to sign a non-compete agreement, in order to prevent them from taking customers, business opportunities, and confidential information to a competitor. "Continued at-will employment" was historically deemed adequate consideration for such agreements in Michigan. An employer could discharge an employee for any reason at any time and, subject to considerations of fairness or equity, still move to enforce that employee's non-compete agreement. No minimum period of employment or other consideration was necessary. This rule was helpful for employers, but sometimes onerous for employees. This long-standing rule may now be in flux.
Businesses often protect their goodwill, customers, and historical and future success through requiring that key employees enter into restrictive covenant agreements that restrict the employee's activities during the employee's employment and for a period of time after the employment relationship ends. The employee is typically restricted, for example, from engaging in activities that are competitive with the business of the employer.
It's not only what your business knows, but also who at your business knows it. Industry leading companies echo that key employees, who typically possess institutional knowledge and trade secrets, are their most valuable assets. Particularly for sales focused organizations, the risk of disloyal key employees taking know-how and relationships can be catastrophic. Protecting your key business assets is vital.