Although non-compete agreements were originally invented to keep executives from running off to competitors with trade secrets and/or client relationships, many businesses have started taking advantage of noncompete agreements by including them in employment contracts with all their workers – even those at the bottom rung of the corporate ladder.
Workers earning minimum wage (or close to it) doing things like making sandwiches and entering data into a computer system are being made to sign employment agreements that prohibit them from working in any capacity for a similar company. Despite the fact that these are unskilled jobs (often held by people who don’t even have a high school diploma), and certainly don’t include access to any important trade secrets, workers are being made to sign such agreements as a condition of employment. And when agreeing to all the terms of the contract is the difference between getting the job and going without a paycheck, most workers don’t consider it much of a choice.
Although signing the employment contract might get them the job, it makes it much harder for them to move up the corporate ladder because the non-compete agreement often means they can’t leverage their experience to get a better paying position with another company. Their options are to try to move up the ladder in their own company or stay in their position where they’ll continue to earn the same low wage.
If employees try to take a new job in violation of the non-compete agreement, they can be prevented from doing so or even made to leave their new job after they’ve settled into it. In many cases, the clause prevents workers from even looking for new employment or asking for a raise for fear of retaliation from their employer. And when they’re not allowed to seek out a similar position with another company that pays better, they have no leverage to ask for a raise. Continue reading ›