On June 29, 2016, the Massachusetts legislature moved one step closer to reforming noncompete agreements. With 150 votes for the legislation, and no votes against, the Massachusetts House of Representatives passed “An Act relative to the judicial enforcement of noncompetition agreements.”
If this noncompete bill becomes law (it’s not there yet—it would still need to be passed by the Senate and signed by the Governor by the end of July for that to happen), then there will be a dramatic shift in the way employers are permitted to use noncompete agreements in Massachusetts.
Significantly, the House of Representatives’ noncompete bill would:
Cap the noncompete period to 12 months from the date of termination;
Restrict employers from enforcing noncompetes against nonexempt (hourly) workers, student interns, and employees under 18; and
Prevent enforcement of noncompete agreements against employees who have been terminated without cause or laid off.
The 12-month cap can be extended for up to two years in the event the employee breaches a fiduciary duty to the employer or if the employee unlawfully takes the employer’s information or property.
ne controversial aspect of the new bill is the so-called “Garden Leave” clause, which would require employers to pay half the salary of employees for the duration of their noncompete period after they leave. But there’s a major caveat to the Garden Leave provision: The bill gives employers the option of providing some “other mutually-agreed upon consideration . . . provided that such consideration is specified in the noncompetition agreement.”
The bill would not affect nonsolicit agreements that bar employees from transacting business with employers’ customers, clients, or vendors. The bill also maintains the status quo for the courts’ ability to modify noncompete agreements by giving judges discretion to reform or otherwise revise a noncompete agreement so as to render it valid and enforceable.
According to the House’s legislation, in order for a noncompete agreement to be valid, new hires must be given prior notice that they will be bound by such an agreement – either with the delivery of the offer of employment or 10 business days before the employee starts work, whichever is earlier. There is also a 10-day notice provision for current employees who are asked to sign new noncompete agreements.
Separate from the noncompete aspects of the bill, if passed, the bill will adopt the Uniform Trade Secrets Act. The impact of that is, as a practical matter, limited.
Russell Beck recently spoke on a panel at the Boston Bar Association’s symposium about the Massachusetts non-compete agreement reform legislation. For up-to-the-minute analysis of legal issues concerning noncompete agreements and trade secrets in Massachusetts and across the United States, read Russell Beck’s blog, Fair Competition Law.
is among the leading authorities in trade secret, noncompete, and unfair competition law, and our experience handling these matters is backed by our extensive employment law andbusiness litigation experience. Our hand-picked team combines attorneys with complementary expertise and practical experience. The Wall Street Journal featured Beck Reed Riden LLP’s noncompete agreement experience. Recently, the White House issued a report entitled, “Non-Compete Agreements: Analysis of the Usage, Potential Issues, and State Responses,” relying in part on Beck Reed Riden LLP’s research and analysis, including its 50 State Noncompete Survey.
Russell Beck’s work in this area is well recognized; it includes:
Over sixteen years of working on trade secret, noncompete, and unfair competition matters
Authoring the book Negotiating, Drafting, and Enforcing Noncompetition Agreements and Related Restrictive Covenants (5th ed., MCLE, Inc. 2015), used by other lawyers to help them with their noncompete cases
Drafting and advising on legislation for the Massachusetts Legislature to define, codify, and improve noncompetition law
Teaching Trade Secrets and Restrictive Covenants at Boston University School of Law
Founding and administrating the award-winning blog, Fair Competition Law
Establishing and administrating the Noncompete Lawyers and Trade Secret Protection groups on LinkedIn, with over 750 members around the world
Founded and chaired the Trade Secret / Noncompete Practice for an AmLaw 100 firm
In addition, Russell was honored for his work in this area of law in the 2014 Chambers USA Guide, which explained that “Russell Beck of Beck Reed Riden LLP specializes in noncompete litigation and is a trade secrets expert. He comes highly recommended by his peers for his nationwide practice in this niche. ‘He’s fantastic,’ sources say.”
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