Noncompete Reform Flops as Legislative Session Nears End

The Massachusetts State House.
The Massachusetts State House. –File Photo

The final version of a proposed Massachusetts economic development bill will not include language related to noncompete clauses, keeping the status quo in tact for the usage of the controversial employment practice.

Earlier this year, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick had proposed outright banning noncompetes, which ban employees who sign them from working for competitors after they leave a company. That notion was endorsed by many in the tech startup world, but opposed by bigger companies.

The House’s version of an economic development bill did not mention noncompetes, but a Senate version included an amendment that would have hit a compromise, by limiting their length and banning them for hourly wage earners.


The Boston Herald notes that the amendment from the Senate bill could still be voted on as a separate bill before the legislative session ends today, but the amendment’s author doesn’t think it will happen.

Most advocacy against noncompete clauses focuses on innovation issues. The thinking goes that by preventing employees from launching their own startups, or preventing startups from recruiting employees at their competitors, it ultimately stunts efforts toward innovation. The tech sector has come out in force in recent months to voice its opinion at hearings related to noncompetes.

However, there is also an issue of employee rights that others opposed to the clauses flaunt. As one example that has attracted attention, a Wellesley summer camp has its teenaged camp counselors sign noncompetes, contractually banning them from babysitting for families they meet at the camp. The leader of the camp has called the training those employees receive at the camp proprietary information—the defense most in favor of noncompetes use.

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