State House Hearing Today About Noncompete Clauses

A State House hearing about noncompete clauses is scheduled for Tuesday.
A State House hearing about noncompete clauses is scheduled for Tuesday. –Essdras M Suarez/Globe Staff

The State House will hold hearings today about controversial noncompete clauses, which allow employers to contractually ban employees from working as or with a competitor for a period of time after leaving a company.

The Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies hearing will start at 11 a.m.

Governor Deval Patrick had originally proposed banning noncompete clauses as part of an economic development initiative put forth earlier this year. A competing bill from the state’s House of Representatives hit on many of the same notes as Patrick’s, but did not include anything about noncompetes. The Senate’s own version of the bill, released last week, does not touch the noncompete issue either.

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Though a noncompete ban at this point seems pretty unlikely to make its way into any economic development bill, today’s hearing will focus on a separate bill that specifically calls for the state to ban noncompetes and adopt the Uniform Trade Secrets Act (which advocates of a ban say would provide businesses adequate protection of proprietary information). The bill is probably activists’ best bet for striking down noncompetes any time soon, with the formal legislative session set to end on July 31.

While the startup and venture capital world strongly endorses banning the clauses, arguing they stifle innovation, some larger companies have advocated for keeping them on the books as a means of protection. Others in favor of a ban are less concerned about innovation ecosystems and instead frame the issue as one of employment liberty, pointing to examples from outside the tech world such as a Massachusetts summer camp that has employees sign noncompetes.

As it is wont to do, the tech community has mobilized on social media ahead of today’s hearing, with several representatives from startups and venture capital firms expected to give testimony.

The tech community also mobilized for an earlier hearing about Patrick’s bill, which saw testimony from both sides of the noncompete debate.

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