Non-compete clauses have been included in employee contracts for decades now. These provisions ensure that employees do not walk off with valuable trade secrets or client lists and take them to a competitor. Putting such a clause in employee contracts makes sense, but only up to a point. A standards noncompete contract will prohibit an employee from working for a competitor within a certain geographical radius for a specified period of time. Six months to a year is pretty standard, but that time limit has been growing lately.
Non-compete agreements were first used largely by technology companies who need to guard their developments very closely. If an employee left to work for a competitor and took everything they knew about their former employer with them, the new employer would have an unfair competitive advantage. It therefore makes sense that companies would try to protect their business interests by preventing employees from going directly to work for a competitor.
The problem that employees have been facing lately is that non-compete agreements have spread beyond just those working in tech and sales. Now, everyone from camp counselors to hair stylists are being required to sign non-compete clauses. Hourly workers in these kinds of positions cannot afford to give up a year or two of work to wait for their non-compete agreement to expire and they have started to speak out against the restrictions that their employers are placing on them.
California and North Dakota already ban non-compete agreements. Now it looks like Massachusetts may be joining their ranks. Governor Deval Patrick has proposed legislation banning noncompete agreements except in a few situations. A committee in the Massachusetts House has already passed a bill incorporating the governor’s proposals, but the new law isn’t in the clear yet and supports and opponents of the bill are fighting furiously over the new measures it would impose. Continue reading ›