How often do you fully read anything before signing it? Or just clicking "agree" to terms and conditions? If you're like most people, probably almost never. But many workers are, sometimes unknowingly, signing into restrictive noncompete agreements.
Today on our show, we dove into the world of noncompete clauses, which often bar workers from finding work at competing firms nearby for a certain period of time. Critics argue this keeps wages low and threatens job security. Companies see it as a way of protecting their investment in special knowledge and training.
Many of you shared your noncompete work experiences with us, on air and online. These are some of your stories, lightly edited for clarity and brevity.
"My husband and I are both 64. We have two kids in college. We will both turn 65 this year. I lost my job some months ago, was out of work for three and half months, finally found employment. My husband was then let go after nine years with his company, with no severance, no notice, effective immediately and a noncompete. He received a job offer shortly after being let go, which he could not accept ... It's a profoundly unfair and crippling situation." -- Jodi in Cohasset, MA
"I am a small business owner, and I've been the victim of not having a noncompete. I run a children's entertainment business, and I've brought in staff over the past 14 years and taught them how to be face painters and balloon twisters. And unfortunately, not every employee is the right fit, and yes I've let people go, and I'm not worried about those people. It's the people that have chosen to leave on their own with all of my, what I consider my trade secrets — I taught them, they were not in the field when I hired them — and they have not only gone to work for other companies, which one would expect. They have gone and started their own companies, and taken all of that information that I trained them with." — Darcy in Glastonbury, CT
"I worked for a major investment bank firm. I created in-house software to manage department workflow and payroll. In 2001, shortly after 9/11, I lost my job and decided to create my own software company.
One of my desires was to create a marketable software similar to the one I was experienced creating. The investment bank firm got wind of it and they sued me for breaking a noncompete.
After an extensive lawyer battle, which cost me several tens of thousands of dollars, I was forced to write a letter stating that I would continue to develop, but not launch, a software for at least two years. Mind you, the investment bank firm was not in the business of selling software.
My lawyer was very aggressive and threatened to counter-sue the company and find other employees that have had noncompete issues and charge them with violations. We are happily still in business since taking a stance." -- Angel in Tampa, FL