New push to ban most 'noncompete' agreements in Connecticut

The contracts prevent workers from leaving a job and taking confidential trade secrets to a competitor, but critics say some companies are using them to trap employees in lower wage jobs.

John Craven

Feb 20, 2023, 11:13 PM

Updated 458 days ago

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State lawmakers are again considering a ban on most noncompete agreements. The contracts prevent workers from leaving a job and taking confidential trade secrets to a competitor, but critics say some companies are using them to trap employees in lower wage jobs like restaurant work and hair styling.
One Fairfield County pest control worker named Dylan spent $30,000 – his entire yearly salary – fighting a five-year noncompete with his old boss.
“So I had to hire an attorney,” he said. “It was very expensive.”
Recently, Dylan and his attorney urged the legislature’s Labor and Public Employees Committee to sharply limit noncompete agreements. The legislation would limit them to workers earning more than $93,600 per year – or "exempt" employees like managers. All noncompetes would expire after one year.
Dylan’s attorney, Josh Goodbaum, told lawmakers that nearly every industry is now forcing employees to sign them.
“I have talked with employees who work in the mechanic industry or the auto body industry – you know, fixing dents in cars, painting cars,” Goodbaum said. “They say, ‘I've got a noncompete and I don't know if I can take another job.’ And I say – I read the noncompete and I talk to them and I give them general principles of law, and then I say, ‘Yeah, I'm not really sure. Let's maybe go to court and try and find out.’”
But employers argue that they need noncompetes.
“Noncompete agreements and exclusivity agreements provide critical protections for insurance companies and other businesses,” said Brooke Foley with the Insurance Association of Connecticut.
On Thursday, the labor committee advanced the bill on a party-line vote. Republicans said it “eviscerates” noncompete agreements.
“There are industries that can only survive if the employers are allowed to protect their assets in a certain contractual arrangement with the people that they employ,” said state Sen. Rob Sampson (R-Wolcott). “What I think is missing from this conversation is the value of these agreements in the real world. They do perform a service.”
Dylan said a simple "nondisclosure" or "nonsolicitation" agreement would have worked in his case.
“There's definitely a balance they could strike up between protecting their clients and their interests, versus just having these overreaching things that, you know, really cripple people that are just trying to work,” he said.
The legislation now heads to the Connecticut House of Representatives. Although lawmakers banned noncompete agreements for broadcast news workers a decade ago, previous attempts to expand the ban have failed.


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