You are young. It’s your first real job. They put a lot of paper in front of you when you walk in the door. You sign it all and get down to work.
A few years later, things have changed; you don’t see a way forward anymore. It’s time to move. You get a new job. You put in your notice. Your boss accepts your resignation then pulls out a piece of paper that says you won’t work for anyone else in the same business for a year. You see your signature at the bottom and your heart sinks. What now?
Or even worse, things seem to be going well and your boss calls you in and says things have changed for us and we are laying you off, and, by the way, you can’t work for anyone else in the same business.
Over the past few years, we’ve heard variations of this story again and again. More and more in Massachusetts, employers, from hair salons to tech giants, are using a legal device called a non-competition agreement to prevent employees from changing jobs.
Massachusetts is a state that enforces non-competition agreements and they have a place in business — employers may have a legitimate need to protect confidential information, trade secrets or business relationships. A non-competition agreement is a simple way to protect these interests. With a non-competition agreement, the business doesn’t need to go to court and prove that the employee has stolen secrets or abused confidential information to help their new employer, which would mean an expensive lawsuit requiring voluminous depositions and document discovery. Instead, all the employer needs to do is produce the document showing that the employee agreed to stay out of competitive businesses.
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