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View Diary: Company wants to be able to fire people and prevent them from getting new jobs (151 comments)

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  •  I assure you this is not new (15+ / 0-)

    "Non-compete" contracts are increasingly being forced on employees considered "talent."

    The company I worked for was bought out by another publisher, and everyone was told to sign "at-will" contracts with "non-compete" agreements if they wanted to keep their jobs. In addition to salespeople, they demanded this of the writers, editors, graphic designers, and even IT people. The non-compete clause said that upon leaving the company, the employee could not work for any of the company's competitors for 2 years. They also specified a list of specific companies a former employee could not work for that said it did not include all the companies and more could be added to the list at any time.

    Since the publications were distributed in all 50 states, any medical publisher would have been a competitor. Since they had an online presence, any health-related Website would have been a competitor.

    I took the contract to an employment lawyer I know, and he said courts in my state usually uphold such agreements unless you can prove that the clause is unusually broad and effectively prohibits you from earning a living in your field (which this one was).

    Given that medical publishing is a specialty market where editors/writers earn a premium for being able to produce scientific material, we collectively banded together and refused to sign the contract unless we could cross out that particular aspect of the noncompete clause.

    The company  agreed, but kept the clause in for new hires. I told all my hires to cross the clause out, however, and management never said anything. When I left the company for another medical publishing company, although the new publications were not competitive against the ones I managed previously, the old company was furious. They made me leave the day I gave notice and tried to prevent me from taking any of my belongings. Nor did they let me say goodbye to anyone, despite the fact that I had been a well-respected employee.

    After I left, they made everyone sign the contract with the clause intact and expanded the clause to stipulate several additional companies. My former employees felt they had no choice to sign it--if they did not, they were told they would be fired.

    Even if it is not enforceable, the problem is how many editorial assistants can afford to challenge the company in court?

    It seems absurd, however, to punish editorial employees who are not competing directly for clients. They are simply using their skills and experience to produce good journalism. It's not like a salesperson who takes his or her contacts along to a new company or who can make use of the old company's secrets and tactics to undermine the former employer.

    I will never agree to sign a contract that prohibits me from working in my chosen field, because it is what I have spent the past several years learning to become. It's like prohibiting a pediatrician from treating children for two years; he/she cannot exactly switch fields to become a cardiologist without a lot of extra effort. Further, a non-medical publication is far less likely to hire me because all my experience is in medical/scientific publishing.

    I don't think contracts like these would hold up against journalism employees, but who has money to fight them and is it a risk one wishes to take?

    THIS is why we need unions--to prevent employers from holding their employees hostage to their jobs. My former employer is one of the worst companies imaginable to work for, and almost everyone who works there hates it, but they feel trapped by these contracts. So, you essentially become indentured servants. It's horrible.

    We Won't Let Republicans Replace Medicare with GOP Vouchercare!

    by CatM on Mon Jan 09, 2012 at 03:40:47 PM PST

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