A few years ago, I was reading an article in the Gwinnett Daily Newst about Amendment One. This was the law that the local government in Georgia was trying to pass so they force the judges to rule that if a non-compete agreement is vague, then it is up to the courts to make it reasonable for both sides.
Yes, this was done because the judges were throwing out non-compete agreements because they didn’t think it was right that people could be fired from their jobs and be told that they can’t work in their industry for two years due to their non-compete agreement. The state and local government disagreed and created Amendment One, throwing employees who voted for them under the bus.
In any case, there was an interesting remark from a reporter who said that it’s one thing to lose your job but to be told that you can’t work for a competitor. That’s really rubbing it in. My thought was that we’re talking about two years of someone’s life.
It seems that in Indiana, the standard two year non-compete agreement isn’t good enough for employees now. In the case of Mayne and O’Bannon Publishing, Elizabeth Mayne had her own printing business in Kentucky. When she closed the business, she went to work for O’Bannon Publishing but was told that her employment was contingent on signing a five year non-compete agreement following her termination of employment.
You can look at the link for the rest of the details at the bottom of this. In any case, after a few years, she resigned but was told that she couldn’t work in two towns in Indiana because she knew the clients and was the face of the company. She appealed the decision and lost. If we want to soften the blow, the bright side of all this was that she could work in Kentucky so she could still support herself.
To me, the most important question is this. Why is it so important that she would have to live with this agreement for five years? What is the difference between signing a standard two year non-compete agreement that would state that she could be fired at any time for any reason and can’t work in a printing company in Indiana for two years. Is it really because two years isn’t enough time?
Yes, we can take it for granted that a company can use their lawyers and draw up any type of time limit on their non-compete agreement and judges will support it. It’s not like the state and local government in Indiana is concerned. Maybe the lawyers could have tried for 10 years and see what would happen. After all, in the end, Ms. Mayne can work in Indiana so what is the difference.
The difference is clear. There shouldn’t be a difference between a two year agreement and a five year agreement but in this case, the company has a chance to use their power and the lawyer draws up an agreement that can say five years. They can do what they want because they’re not concerned about the fact that Ms. Mayne has to live with this for the next five years. No, we can soften the blow by saying that she could live in Kentucky and open her printing business again. After all, the company has rights and Ms. Mayne doesn’t.
Yes, this is what happens when lawyers who specialize in non-compete agreements run amuck and the state and local government just stands by and does nothing instead of doing their job which should be to regulate these lawyers so they aren’t allowed to create their unreasonable non-compete agreements.
I don’t care how you dress it up and I don’t care how you soften the blow. Because what happens next is that other companies in Indiana will have a five year non-compete agreement just like this one. Then we can see hair salons have a five year non-compete agreement like this as well. All because we think it’s okay for companies and their lawyers to do this while employees like Ms. Mayne have to make sacrifices to make these non-compete work because the state and local government turns their back on people like Ms Mayne and other employees who need to be protected from these lawyers who are obviously out of control.