The Non-Compete Stands

Massachusetts won't be getting rid of the pesky provisions anytime soon.

photo by Steve Annear

photo by Steve Annear

Employers advocating for the use of non-compete agreements, which bind workers to their respective companies by limiting the types of jobs they can take on when leaving their former post, may have claimed a victory this legislative session.

After months of public outrage, rallies at the State House, hearings before elected leaders, and a large push from the tech community here in Boston—not to mention support from the City Council—it looks as though a plan to scale back non-competes won’t be considered again until next year.

According to State Senator William Brownsberger, who crafted legislation to call for limitations on the use of non-competes, a conference report on an Economic Development bill voted out Wednesday didn’t include language to do away with the binding employment agreements. Elected officials are expected to vote on the bill today, the last day in the legislative session.

“It seems unlikely now that any actual motion on this issue will occur in this session, but there remains a slight possibility that a separate bill could move,” Brownsberger said.

A source close to the issue at the State House stressed the former point, however, saying it’s “not likely.”

Discussions swirled around non-compete agreements and led to a back-and-forth on Beacon Hill this session. After Governor Deval Patrick said he supported the idea of abolishing the contracts outright, citing their potential to stifle innovation, a version of an Economic Development bill filed by the House didn’t include language to address the topic. The Senate’s version of the bill struck somewhat of a balance, and instead of eliminating non-competes as a suggested cutting back the amount of time they could remain in effect.

Non-competes were also the focus of numerous public hearings at the State House, where workers turned out by the dozens with petitions, signatures, and testimony about the perils of such restrictive measures.

But the push for their removal will have to regain momentum during the next legislative session.

In a statement on Twitter, members of the New England Venture Capital Association, who were largely responsible for getting information into the hands of the tech community about the contractual obligations, said they were not giving up on the issue.

“We will keep fighting,” they wrote.

Brownsberger vowed the same.