Calculating a Noncompete’s Geographic Scope: By Driving Distance, Or “As The Crow Flies”?
This is a topic that occasionally comes up with respect to geographic limits on Texas noncompetes.
If the noncompete provision contains a 10-mile geographic scope, does that mean ten miles measured in driving distance or ten miles through the air? Sometimes, this is an important distinction, because a particular point might be ten miles away through the air, but 10.5 miles away per Google Maps.
There is not much case law on this issue. However, a 2018 case from a federal district court in Dallas contained this holding:
[T]he non-compete as written is ambiguous. The non-compete prohibits former employees from working for a TrueBlue competitor located in “any area within 25 miles” of Defendants’ former TrueBlue office, but fails to specify how that distance is measured. Courts diverge in how to calculate distance when a covenant lacks the express language, but many resolve such ambiguities against the drafter. Thus, because Electrical Talent is located more than 25 road-miles away from the TrueBlue office, Doc. 15, Defs.’ Resp., 7, TrueBlue has not met its burden to show that Defendants are violating the non-compete by working at Electrical Talent.
So, depending upon the language in the noncompete provision at issue, the geographic scope may be measured in “road miles” or “as the crow flies.” And in some cases, this difference can make all the difference.