Noncompete clauses for fast-food workers?

Here’s Neil Irwin writing in TheUpshot: “If you are a chief executive at a large company, you very likely have a noncompete clause in your contract….” Sounds reasonable. And he adds that you’re also likely to have signed a noncompete agreement “…if you are a top engineer or product designer, holding your company’s most valuable intellectual property between your ears.”

That also sounds reasonable, although such clauses may in the end cause more harm than good. But Irwin adds, astonishingly, “…you also probably have a noncompete agreement if you assemble sandwiches at Jimmy John’s sub sandwich chain for a living.”

Irwin emphasizes, “What’s striking about some of these labor practices is the absence of reciprocity…. The executive isn’t allowed to quit for a competitor, but he or she is guaranteed to be paid for the length of the contract even if fired.”

Conversely, he writes, “Jimmy John’s appears to have demanded the same loyalty as the price of having a low-paid hourly job making sandwiches, from which the worker could be fired at any time for any reason”—without additional compensation.

Read Irwin’s UpShot post at the New York Times where he discusses the legal, economic, and moral issues surrounding such practices and for links to related coverage.


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