A Call to Action on Noncompete Reform

Massachusetts’ innovators have long fought to reform the state’s archaic, stifling noncompete practices. (Medium is no stranger to their pleas.) But sure as they’ve fought, the powerful whisper of big business has had its way, scuttling legislation every year since 2009. But yesterday things changed. Almost…

Here’s what happened

Wednesday evening, the House voted — unanimously— to pass H.4434, a bill that strongly reforms many aspects of noncompete agreements (e.g. a low wage exemption, an age exemption, an intern exemption, and an exemption for employees terminated without cause). It was a landmark moment and a huge step toward truly meaningful reform. However.

While the bill contains a historic “Garden Leave” clause (a requirement that employers compensate workers at minimum 50% of their highest base pay for the duration a noncompete is enforced), it also — whether by design or oversight — contains language that provides a backdoor to that clause; a way for employers to negotiate around that minimum. This cannot stand.

Here’s the plan

The fate of the bill is in the hands of the Senate. As they work to produce a revised version, our community must call attention to the danger the loophole poses to the very essence of the bill. We must advocate that the final version closes the loophole and restores the bill’s original intent (to establish a minimum level of compensation for employees affected by noncompetes). But we need help.

Here’s what you can do

Advocate: Follow this link to let YOUR state Senator know where you stand. We’ve provided a tool that will autofill the correct lawmaker based on your address, and we’ve provided a template that outlines the innovation community’s position — all you have to do is click and call.

Promote: Click here to Tweet your support for noncompete reform. This may seem insignificant, but the more voices that chime in, the louder the call.

Here’s what else

This doesn’t end here. Right now we’re making our position known; soon an amendment will be filed, with definitive language to support, and dedicated outreach will be once again crucial. We’ll provide the resources; please remain on alert!

Here’s why you should act

This has been a long and grueling battle and if you’re reading this, you likely know the stakes. Noncompetes suppress wages across the board, stifle innovation by restricting the flow of ideas, and drive would-be Massachusetts startups to the West Coast (where noncompetes have been illegal for over 100 years.) Change is crucial to the state’s economic future.

With such overwhelming support for the totality of this bill (unanimous in the House…) its passage is extremely likely. And once it’s done it may be a long time before reform comes to the table again, so we need to make sure we get it right. Thank you for your continued support —we’re almost there!