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Noncompete Clauses for Fast Food Workers?

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Even by the standards of the fast food industry, this is a gratuitous way to treat workers:

If you’re considering working at a Jimmy John’s sandwich shop, you may want to read the fine print on your job application.

A Jimmy John’s employment agreement provided to The Huffington Post includes a “non-competition” clause that’s surprising in its breadth. Noncompete agreements are typically reserved for managers or employees who could clearly exploit a business’s inside information by jumping to a competitor. But at Jimmy John’s, the agreement apparently applies to low-wage sandwich makers and delivery drivers, too.

By signing the covenant, the worker agrees not to work at one of the sandwich chain’s competitors for a period of two years following employment at Jimmy John’s. But the company’s definition of a “competitor” goes far beyond the Subways and Potbellys of the world. It encompasses any business that’s near a Jimmy John’s location and that derives a mere 10 percent of its revenue from sandwiches.

Since there are obviously no trade secrets at stake here, this is clearly just punching employees. Let’s take the one thing we have trained this low-skill, low-wage workers at and make sure she can’t use it if she leaves it at one of our equally low-skill, low-wage competitors!

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  • rea

    Illegal combination in restraint of trade . . .

    • Bruce Leroy

      Yeah, there’s no way that stands up in court. There’s no way they receive some sort of super secret sandwich making knowledge that would justify it, and even if they did, it would probably still be thrown out for lack of compensation.

      • Depends on the state. In Miss., the consideration is, you get hired (or don’t get fired).

        Still, this seems baseless & not reasonably tailored, so even Miss. would give this one the fish eye.

      • Brett

        Same here. Its main value would be intimidation towards any workers who might dump them for higher wages elsewhere at another fast food place.

        More generally, we’ve seen an expansion in recent years of companies pushing the boundaries in terms of what can be legally contracted. Broader use of Non-competes, broader use of “by purchasing this you agree to not provide any negative criticism of the company”, more mandatory arbitration clauses, and so forth. I put a lot of blame on it for the Supreme Court, which has generally upheld the “right” to contract away your rights whenever it comes up.

      • drkrick

        There’s no way it stands up in court, but unless someone is willing to pick up their litigation costs to make that point, the average sandwich maker isn’t in a position to defend themselves if Jimmy John’s tries to push it.

      • LiveFreeOrShop

        Me also, too. But JJ’s is taking advantage of employees who are unlikely to realize that it’s unlawful. And even if they do, they most like can’t afford or know where to get the legal assistance.

        BTW, Jimmy John’s? Never heard of it. Sounds like they supply portable toilets for construction sites.

        • JMP

          Same here, this is the first I’ve ever heard of this place. Are they one of those fast food chains that’s only in one region?

          • liberalrob

            They are pretty big in Texas, at least around here (Dallas). They scored a sponsorship deal with the Rangers and we got treated to the “Jimmy John’s Fast and Free Delivery of the Game” on every telecast this year. (The Rangers also have the “Sonic Slam Inning” when the Rangers are up in the 6th of any televised game, which I much prefer to the avalanche of those two douchebags Sonic has on their regular commercials.)

  • postmodulator

    Damn it, I eat at Jimmy John’s a lot. It’s one of the less lethal fast food options.

    • They treat their workers really bad.

      • Pat

        We need progressive memes for raising the minimum wage. The words used to describe gay marriage for example – marriage equality, love is love – were a part of the effort to bring that whole idea, that gay love is real, into the mainstream. It’s just a beautiful way of describing the idea. And look at what the Pope did!

        “Living wage” is a start. How about “Invest in Americans?” How can we describe raising the minimum wage to make it seem like an inevitable idea?

        • CaptainBringdown

          Americans already overwhelmingly support raising the minimum wage. The lack of popular support for raising the minimum wage isn’t the problem.

          • Pat

            This is true. But everyone is convinced that getting Republicans to agree to it is not going to happen, even if their constituents would love it. We also thought that they would never give up screaming against gay marriage, or Obamacare. But these things are happening. We all know that legalization of gay marriage is inevitable.

            So how do we make raising the minimum wage inevitable, in the common wisdom? I want memes.

        • Somebody

          I like John Scalzi’s “Fuck you: Pay Me.”

      • matt w

        They were huge Romney supporters as well, FWIW.

        • DrDick

          I think the Venn diagrams between the two groups almost perfectly overlap.

          • Bruce Leroy

            Unfortunately, I think there are plenty of business owning liberals that also treat their workers badly.

            • matt w

              Ayup.

              • Scott Lemieux

                Cf. Ralph Nader.

                • Malaclypse

                  When did he become a liberal?

                • efgoldman

                  When did he become a liberal?

                  When did he become a business owner?

                • njorl

                  Ralph has been the chairman and CEO of “Ralph Nader’s Bag of Goods” for years.

            • tsam

              Probably, but I certainly don’t.

      • They treat their workers really bad.

        This explains why they’ve recently started popping up in Mississippi, then.

      • John Selmer Dix

        From talking to a few of their bike delivery people on the road, I’ve learned that they have to wear those khaki shorts, and they are forbidden to use cycling shorts or bibs. This leads to some pretty terrible chafing and discomfort, especially here in the Texas heat. It always struck me as a particularly callous and arbitrary rule.

        • Lee Rudolph

          I’m sure that as soon as the kinks are worked out, they’ll be laying off all their bike delivery people in favor of some kind of Uber solution; that sounds like just their speed.

          • guthrie

            Drones.

            • Pat

              I thought drone-delivered beer was pretty damn neat.

            • Dennis Orphen

              Mortars. Place your order with an app that gives your location and in x minutes your sandwich arrives within y meters of the target zone or your sandwich is free. This would work even better with burritos.

      • ASV

        They also treat elephants really bad.

      • Brett

        No kidding. Reminds me of how the dentists who get in the news for making you sign agreements to not criticize them online or anywhere else tend to be shit-awful dentists when you read the accounts of the people who used their services. If you’re trying to ban people from providing criticism, then I just assume that you’re trying to cover for something rather than actually addressing the concerns.

        • guthrie

          The free market is great, as long as one side doesn’t have any information.

      • liberalrob

        Is there any fast-food chain that treats their workers well? I thought they were all pretty horrible, by design.

    • TribalistMeathead

      http://www.bilerico.com/2012/05/more_than_one_reason_not_to_eat_at_jimmy_johns.php

      On an unrelated note, I miss Taylor Gourmet. Not sure if their sandwiches were non-lethal, but they were delicious nevertheless.

    • TBplayer

      Really? I can’t stand their sandwiches: the bread is absolutely tasteless and has a horrible mouthfeel, and the meats and cheeses all taste the same as each other (which would be OK, I guess, if it were at least a good taste, but it’s bland and uninteresting).

  • c u n d gulag

    Can the former employees make their own sandwiches at home, and eat them, or is that against the code too?
    Douche-canoes!!!

    • SnarkiChildOfLoki

      Yeah, but watch out about the “shrink-wrap license agreement” on those supermarket tomatoes, because opening the package means that you agree NOT to use them to make homemade ketchup.

    • Warren Terra

      Yes, but only twice a week, assuming three meals a day. Otherwise sandwiches are more than 10% of your intake, and you’re violating the noncompete clause.

  • Malaclypse

    The odd thing is, case law on non-competes has swung in favor of employees more and more over the last few years, with the trend being that the more restrictive a non-compete is, the less likely it can be enforced. In MA at least, this sounds laughably unenforceable.

    • SnarkiChildOfLoki

      How many fast-food worker drones can afford to litigate the issue?

      • Malaclypse

        They don’t need to. They act like it doesn’t exist. Jimmy John’s is the one who needs to litigate, and they almost certainly can’t, and they know this.

        This is straight-up intimidation, nothing more, nothing less.

        • J. Otto Pohl

          I am thinking it would be a seriously warped judge who upheld Jimmy John’s non-compete clause regarding individual sandwich makers or cashiers as enforcible. What would they even bring to the court, an attempt to get an injunction to prevent an individual sandwich maker earning minimum wage from working at Subway?

          • tsam

            Judge tsam: Was the defendant represented by council when asked to sign this legally binding document as a condition of employment?

            Plaintiff: No

            Judge tsam: Case dismissed.

            • Lee Rudolph

              With prejudice. And by the way, you’re in contempt of court on grounds of frivolity.

        • Warren Terra

          On the other hand, any JJ manager who wants to victimize an ex-employee can just send them a nasty lawyer letter – an actual lawyer letter, an imitation, or an actual fake – and cause them all sorts of worry; maybe even make them spend time and/or money obtaining legal advice, which in turn may not be accurate. Sure, if it got to court it might well collapse – but a lot of damage can be done without ever getting near a judge.

          • so-in-so

            I wonder if the letter went to the ex-employee’s new manager, if he would bother to wonder if it was real or just fire the employee and hire someone else?

          • Exactly. Saying “they can’t litigate” is wishful thinking. JJ can even file a suit — and the worker will likely not show up, being unable to afford a lawyer or to defend himself.

            Another tactic is for JJ to send the new employer a letter threatening to sue for tortious interference w/ contract. New employer thinks, hell, I don’t need this grief, & fires employee.

            • Joe Bob the III

              Your second paragraph is along the lines of what I was thinking. If you have JJ’s on your new job application and the new employer knows JJ’s has non-competes your application goes in the circular file. So long as there are plenty of other applicants, any new employer will hire the people who don’t bring a risk of litigation with them.

        • Linnaeus

          This is like the yellow-dog clauses that were in applications that some of my friends filled out when they were applying to fast-food jobs. Not enforceable, illegal in fact, but a lot of people applying for those jobs may not know that.

      • NewishLawyer

        The article said the case was being handled as a class-action. This implies that someone were at least able to find some enterprising plaintiff’s lawyers who thought they could handle the case on a contingency basis. Someone thought there was money damages here.

      • sanity clause

        To paraphrase that old quote, the law in its infinite majesty gives rich and poor equal rights to sue each other.

    • Cheap Wino

      What could be the reasoning on this? I find it hard to believe that JJs would spend any effort at all enforcing this — tracking down violators would seem like a pointless waste of time and the all important dollar.

      • djw

        Reduce turnover and the costs associated with it should an employee learn Subway (or whatever) pays a bit better, offers better shifts, or is otherwise preferable? Whatever might be gained from reduced turnover wouldn’t justify an attempt at actual enforcement, but intimidation is cheap.

        • Schadenboner

          Possible. It’s much more likely to be boilerplate copied from “Noncompetes for Dummies” into the application included in the franchise kit.

          It is entirely possible that the reporter is the first person to actually bother reading the damn thing.

          • Linnaeus

            If so, that’s, well, still a problem.

            • Ann Outhouse

              Believe it or not, when I was consulting, clients would try to get me to sign non-compete clauses. You can imagine my response to that (basically, LOLOLOLOLOL).

              I think a lot of companies are run by cheats and crooks who think everyone else — competitors, employees, consultants, vendors — is out to fuck them over, because that’s how they themselves conduct their business.

              • jim, some guy in iowa

                “do unto others before they do unto you” does seem to be what passes for philosophy among those people

              • Linnaeus

                Clients? My employer (a consulting firm) had me sign a non-compete clause, but I’ve never had a client try that with me, and I doubt they’ve tried that with our owner (who would, like you, laugh at them).

                • Ann Outhouse

                  Another common LOLOLOLOL moment was demanding that disputes be settled by an arbitrator selected by the client.

                  These were always small companies. I never even bothered with contracts most of the time with big employers — usually just a short “letter of agreement” stating the work to be done and the agreed-upon FFP or hourly rate.

                • tsam

                  A potential employer (years ago) said I had to sign a non-compete. I said no, but I would sign an employment contract laying out wages and benefits in exchange for not competing. They acted like I was crazy. Now I’m part owner of a competitor of that company–all because of that insistence that I fuck myself over and trap myself in a job I spent years learning to do.

              • ASV

                cheats and crooks who think everyone else is out to fuck them over, because that’s how they themselves conduct their business

                The technical term is “job creators.”

              • I’ve had clients send me contracts that said that our work product (structural engineering drawing) were their property. I ask “Since you can’t legally use them without my stamp, why do you want them?” The answer is a Ralph Cramden hummina hummina.

                • Joe Bob the III

                  I work in the architecture business and also find that egregiously awful design services agreements are sadly common. Getting clients to understand that we sell a service, not drawings, can be tough sometimes.

            • Malaclypse

              You can imagine my response to that (basically, LOLOLOLOLOL).

              Alternative response: So you want to make me a statutory employee?

        • DrDick

          That was my thought as well. Turnover in these jobs is huge, because working conditions are brutal and pay is laughable.

          • Ann Outhouse

            IME, non-compete clauses are primarily wage-suppression mechanisms. It’s not so much that Jimmy John’s can’t hire help, especially in this economy, as that they would like to retain experienced help without having to give them a regular pay raise.

            • DrDick

              That is also part of what I had in mind, and implied in djw’s comment.

      • Warren Terra

        Actual, courtroom enforcement will never happen. It’s there to punish and to subjugate. Putting it in the contract costs them nothing, and the poor schlubs threatened with it don’t know that it’s unenforceable (either as a legal matter or as a practical one, in that it’s not worth enforcing even if it holds up in court).

        • As Sam mentions below, it’s not the employee who decides whether to obey the clause, it tends to be their next employer (or the employer’s lawyers), who aren’t interested in spending the time to figure out whether a threat to sue is meaningful or not. Whether people who sell sandwiches tend to think the idea of a noncompete is so ridiculous it doesn’t have to be worried about is another story.

          I had actually heard that noncompetes in MA were enforceable, at least for high-level positions (less frequently for more interchangeable workers). I’m pretty sure a relative of mine who switched jobs when moving had to be at a company that didn’t do business in the former state.

          (ETA: this was probably supposed to be on Warren’s other comment at 9:35, and others have said pretty much the same by now.)

          • Malaclypse

            Case law in MA has tightened a lot in the last 5 or so years, and Patrick tried unsuccessfully to ban non-comps completely earlier this year. As it stands, rules around them are so tight that very few can be enforced as a practical matter (see here).

            • I read those articles too, but alongside them articles saying that the venture capitalists were still pushing for less enforceability because companies are still getting cease-and-desist letters that lead them to immediately dismiss key employees to avoid lawsuits (and of course illegality, they wouldn’t want to hire someone who made a promise they were breaking). Where if they just go with people in CA, they can avoid all this hassle about it.

          • Ah, I should’ve read down – Bianca makes point I made later/above.

      • Rugosa

        Sure, it could be to intimidate workers to reduce turnover, but it could just be to intimidate workers for the hell of it. I’m convinced that part of the joy of capitalism is that capitalists really like to screw people over. It’s part of what makes them so superior*; they can treat human beings like crap with a clear conscience.

        *sometimes spelled “sociopathic”

      • NewishLawyer

        Another option is that someone just merely cut and pasted it from management’s contract without thinking.

      • liberalrob

        If we can safely discard the absurd notion that Jimmy John’s actually means to enforce this rigorously…then I’d submit it’s a way to keep employees from going out and starting up their own “Jerry Jake’s” franchise that uses the same business model.

  • Matt

    I’d guess it’s not likely to be enforceable. (It’s certainly not in California, where most such things are not enforceable.) But, it’s still enough to make people worried and cause trouble, and obviously should not be included.

    • Lee Rudolph

      I’d guess it’s not likely to be enforceable.

      Second Amendment enforcement!

      • trollhattan

        “Come and get me, copper!”
        –Jimmy John’s [who?] former employee

        or…”How many divisions does Jimmy John have?”

        How would this clause affect a fast food worker who, unable to get adequate work hours takes a second fast food job? That happens a lot. What about when an outlet folds. Still can’t work in fast food for two years? Whoever drew that up sounds functionally retarded.

        • matt w

          See below–when Subway sent a former employee and her new employer a letter about the non-compete clause, she got fired. Jimmy John’s doesn’t have divisions but it has in-house lawyers which are just as good.

          • trollhattan

            How on earth would they even know?

            In Silicon Valley the communication among the co-conpirator companies was at a pretty high level (including Dark Lord Jobs himself) and for the most part regarding highly valued employees. Here we’re talking about disinfranchized working poor who might well not have a phone or a permanent address.

            Am genuinely curious about how, other than sheer accident, company A would discover former employee B was working for company C. Do these assholes share an employee database? Would that not violate antitrust laws?

            • liberalrob

              You have to fill out your prior employers on your job app. If you don’t put down Jimmy John’s and you did work there, then you falsified your application.

              • trollhattan

                Doubt that’s true, insofar as leaving a job unlisted is not a falsification. If, in the interview, they ask “what you did during X period” and you misstate something in your answer, then perhaps. (I never list EVERYTHING I’ve done on a job app, as too many are completely irrelevant.)

                In any case, what employer is obligated to honor another employer’s non-compete clause? If I had a sandwich shop I’d be tempted to camp outside one of these joints and offer $12/hour sammich-making jobs just to mess with them.

                • Joe Bob the III

                  The phrase you are looking for is tortious interference.

                  Say that Company A has a non-compete agreement with an employee and Company B induces said employee to violate the agreement by offering them a job. Company A then has a legal cause of action against B because B induced the employee to break their agreement with A. The employee and Company B are both exposed to liability.

    • sam

      There’s some pretty good court precedent that these things are unenforceable unless they’re reasonably limited in time and geography and to special skills tied to a particular job. My best guess would be that these are unenforceable on their face, but that JJ’s is counting on the fact that a bunch of young, not highly-educated sandwich makers are not well-versed in the nuances of legal precedent on non-compete clauses, and are using these as a cudgel to intimidate workers away from leaving their jobs.

      Whether or not they are actually enforceable, a lot of potential employers will ask on employment applications whether a potential employee is subject to one of these, and will simply refuse to hire in such case – they don’t care about arguments relating to the enforceability or unenforceability thereof. Even if they agree that they’re unenforceable, they don’t want the hassle of having to deal with paying for any resulting litigation (because they could be sued themselves under theories relating to inducement of the employee to breach the contract). Even if they’d win, they don’t want the cost.

      • Warren Terra

        Unless JJ teaches its sandwich delivery staff to fly a broomstick, I don’t think there are any great trade secrets they can legitimately claim to be protecting. We can all agree that assembling a sandwich containing well known ingredients in plain view of the customer is a dark and mysterious art whose secrets must be taken to the grave on pain of eternal torment – but lunch delivery?

      • Derelict

        I think this is the point of the Jimmy John’s non-compete: It’s a way for Jimmy John’s to corral other min-wage sandwich shops into blackballing any employee with the gumption to leave for an extra 5 cents an hour.

        Back when Reagan still had that new-president smell, I saw the destruction of labor standards beginning and lamented this to an older co-worker. “Don’t worry,” he said, “the pendulum always swings back the other way eventually.” Thirty-five years on and the pendulum is STILL swinging to the right. And many Americans are applauding it.

      • Hogan

        a lot of potential employers will ask on employment applications whether a potential employee is subject to one of these

        Really? People hiring line workers at fast food shops would ask that?

        • matt w

          From the story linked in the article about a Subway manager who got screwed by a non-compete clause, Subway had a lawyer send a letter to her next employer and they fired her. (As bianca said above.)

          Note the particular dickishness of this case — Subway fired her after she asked for more sick leave. Not even paid sick leave, it seems.

          • The level of pettiness required to find out that former fast food managers are working at other restaurants, and pay someone to write a letter, is amazing. It seems totally punitive against the woman. It probably also serves to hassle competitors (who I suspect in this case are a lot smaller than Subway). It raises the cost to them of hiring experienced people (and shrinks the pool of people who can work anywhere else), shifting power in various subtle (and possibly imaginary) ways to them.

            • DrDick

              Small businessmen tend to define small minded.

          • djw

            Jesus.

            • Lee Rudolph

              I’m sorry, but after refusing to sign Yahweh’s non-compete agreement, He got fired.

              • jim, some guy in iowa

                ooh, that secret recipe for turning water into wine got him, didn’t it

                • Warren Terra

                  Just as well. If he was still in business, Jimmy Johns would’ve been after him over the fish sandwiches.

      • L2P

        I can’t believe any employer would go beyond a nastygram to an employer unless it really was a vital issue. They’d have to sue their ex-employee in court and waive their arbitration rights. No thanks!

  • cppb

    This kind of thing is almost certainly unenforceable (in the states I’m familiar with, anyway), but employers rarely lose by betting that their workers won’t be able to use the meager protections the legal system offers.

  • wickwack
    • matt w

      Note in that story how the recession is helping employers terrorize workers:

      Micah, another one of the fired workers, says he found a similarly low-paying job in the retail industry. The 24-year-old also has a degree, from the University of Minnesota, but he says he hasn’t been able to find a typical post-college job since his graduation in 2010, either. He went 10 months without a job after getting fired from Jimmy John’s, where he earned $7.50 an hour.

  • As noted above, this thing is almost certainly not enforceable, because not limited in scope. Every case I have seen involved some trade secret — customer list for salespeople, engineering design data, etc.– that could be an identifiable basis for needing a noncompete. I know the law in three Southeastern states– Tenn., Miss. Ga.– would not enforce this.

    The purpose is en terrorem, not to go to court. This is one of I assume many ways they just want to keep the employees beaten down. I wish the class action attack on this well.

    • Ann Outhouse

      It’s not really about “trade secrets” — you can legally require confidentiality agreements without having to resort to a non-compete clause.

      Non-compete clauses are primarily a pay-suppression mechanism.

      • you can legally require confidentiality agreements without having to resort to a non-compete clause.

        In theory, yes, but having your employee go to work for your rival and promise he really, really will keep your secrets … well, some courts cannot be blamed for finding that to exert too much strain on human nature.

      • L2P

        Not really.

        Typical non-competes are for salespeople in targeted industries (say, high-end medical equipment). A salesperson is hired and given a bunch of contacts, leads, and information about how the business markets and differentiates their equipment.

        If the salesperson gets a job with a competitor, even with non-disclosure the salesperson could still use the information from the prior employer against them. She still knows it, after all. Without a non-compete this could be bad. There’s some pretty funny Dilbert strips where salespeople do just that.

        But usually non-competes include some pretty good limiting language (only in certain geographic areas, only for certain time periods, only for certain industries). These Jimmy John ones are crazy.

        • Mellano

          I think investment banks do domething similar — a “gardening leave” for a few months between employment. Of course it’s tough to get by on your hiring bonus and and what’s left of your last annual bonus, but sometimes a little belt-tightening is called for.

  • NewishLawyer

    1. I’ve never heard of this chain before.

    2. I don’t think non-compete clauses should ever be enforceable. California’s Business and Profession Code Section 16600 says this:

    “16600. Except as provided in this chapter, every contract by which
    anyone is restrained from engaging in a lawful profession, trade, or
    business of any kind is to that extent void.”

    The number of exceptions is exceedingly limited. Every state should have this rule basically.

    3. Do they teach classes in MBA school on the importance of psychic wages and why employees should be treated like shit?

    • Warren Terra

      You let them have some dignity, soon they’ll want some money, too.

    • DrDick

      On #3, I am quite certain that is a required course. The MBA is evil incarnate.

      • DrS

        I work with a guy who is getting his and the derp that flows from his mouth sometimes…

    • Bruce Leroy

      I can see them having use for high level people with knowledge of trade secrets, but only if time limited, and compensation is given for the time that they can’t compete.

      Also, if its a part of a sale of a business so that you can’t sell your local business, then open up a new one right next door.

      But for most employees, I’m glad to see the law has made them mostly impossible to enforce.

    • Gwen

      Texas allows non-competes, but the court has fairly strong power to modify it. I doubt most judges (except the hackiest GOPers, which unfortunately predominate on the Supreme Court of Texas and most of the appeals courts) would enforce it here as written.

      But anyway, a noncompete is a lousy way to get your workers to stay.

      I am bound by a noncompete, but it is fairly narrowly drawn; as I recall, it applies only to direct competitors (other software companies in the electronic legal management domain), our clients, and our business partners. And we’re a software company, so we actually have secrets more important than “the correct way of stacking meat on bread” or whatever JJs thinks it is they are protectinghere.

      • Linnaeus

        I am bound by one, too, but like yours, it’s limited to competitors and such. It’s also time-limited (3 years, IIRC).

      • other software companies in the electronic legal management domain

        Legal management as in used to help an att’y manage pleadings etc., or more like time entry, production, etc.?

        We got a new system for the latter last year, and god, does it suck.

      • guthrie

        Is that lousy, as in all sensible nice people think it’s an insane idea and it doesn’t work in practise, or lousy as in control freak managers find it a useful tool for keeping workers in line?

    • tsam

      I don’t think it should even be legal to sign away your right to earn a living–even with a competitor. There’s nothing wrong with an employment contract (although at a sandwich shop? FUCK OFF), but non-competes are nothing but a control method. The trade secret thing is largely bullshit since secrets in business don’t really even exist anymore.

      Besides, it should be completely illegal to ask a 17 year old kid to sign a legal document when there is no chance he/she will have legal counsel while being hired to make sammiches. I don’t mean just unenforceable, I mean ILLEGAL–like someone is paying a $500,000 fine just for fucking trying it.

  • Bitter Scribe

    This is some kind of Onion parody, right?

    • Linnaeus

      These days, I’m increasingly inclined to believe that an Onion parody is actually less likely than a real situation.

    • Warren Terra

      Reality is proving to be increasingly stiff competition for The Onion. Shoulda made it sign a contract with a stiff clause embedded in it!

    • The Temporary Name

      The number of ingredients on sandwiches tends to double every two years, and you want Jimmy John’s to fall behind in the sandwich technology race?

  • You know what this shitty, low-wage job needs? More fear and exploitation!

    (Roll out the tumbrils, roll out the tumbrils of fun!)

  • mikeSchilling

    This is one I know something about first-hand. Twenty years ago (almost exactly), I was working at a California-based company that was bought by a New York-based one (you might have heard of it: its former CEO now owns the Islanders) that had a non-compete clause. A bunch of us hired an attorney to find out what that meant for us. His conclusion was:

    1. It’s not enforceable in California.
    2. “Not enforceable” means that if they try to enforce it, you’ll eventually prevail in court, after some unpredictable amount of time and expense.
    3. It’s entirely possible that the non-compete would result in some employers being unwilling to hire you (see “time and expense”, above).

    So the smart thing was to refuse to sign the thing and find another job instead. The good news was that the existence of the non-compete made working for the new company a non-comparable job, even though it had the same responsibilities and compensation, so not staying on was officially an unemployment-insurance-eligible layoff rather than a resignation.

  • Nutella

    An example of abusive and effective use of a non-compete:

    Two people worked for a large IT consulting firm and had a non-compete that was reasonably written to say they couldn’t contact the firm’s customers after the left.

    They left, started their own firm, went after new business from new customers (completely legit and not a violation of the non-compete) until one day they found themselves competing for a contract at a new customer with their old employer.

    Old employer sued them, claiming violation of non-compete. Old employer made sure the suit made the local news. Totally legit new customer refused to have anything to do with the new firm because they were afraid of getting drawn into the suit.

    Thus old employer destroyed their new competition with an abusive lawsuit.

    The lawsuit was undoubtedly withdrawn or dismissed later but the damage was done.

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