Some Noncompetes Are Worse Than Others

by Matthew Stollak on Monday, June 9, 2014


Interesting story from the Sunday New York Times:

Noncompete clauses are now appearing in far-ranging fields beyond the worlds of technology, sales and corporations with tightly held secrets, where the curbs have traditionally been used. From event planners to chefs to investment fund managers to yoga instructors, employees are increasingly required to sign agreements that prohibit them from working for a company’s rivals.

There are plenty of other examples of these restrictions popping up in new job categories: One Massachusetts man whose job largely involved spraying pesticides on lawns had to sign a two-year noncompete agreement. A textbook editor was required to sign a six-month pact.

A Boston University graduate was asked to sign a one-year noncompete pledge for an entry-level social media job at a marketing firm, while a college junior who took a summer internship at an electronics firm agreed to a yearlong ban.

Two quick points

1.  In some fields, they are truly necessary to protect a firm's technical secrets.  However, is it really needed for camp counselors, pesticide spraying, and textbook editing?  Is the investment in the worker enough to justify such a restriction?

2.  HR - you're doing it wrong.  If you feel you need to put in a noncompete agreement in an organization to protect against even "nonessential" employees from departing, there are some deep-seeded issues within your organization involving culture and compensation that need to be addressed first. If employees are leaving, perhaps a noncompete agreement is not the answer.

"Right to Work" truly takes on a different meaning.

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