Earlier this year, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick sparked intense debate when he introduced an economic development bill that included draft legislation proposing to ban most post-employment non-competition agreements. After considering this proposal and a compromise that would have limited non-competes to six months and prohibited them for hourly employees, Massachusetts legislators have decided to drop non-compete legislation from the economic development bill.
Many employers view non-competes as a valuable tool for protecting their hard-won confidential information, trade secrets, and goodwill. In a statement released this week, the Greater Boston Area Chamber of Commerce cheered the legislature's decision to leave the state's non-compete law unchanged:
"We believe the state's current law on non-competes strikes an appropriate balance between protecting employers' interests and allowing employee mobility, and we are pleased with the Legislature's decision to keep this policy in place. Non-compete policy in Massachusetts is well developed and its usage on a voluntary basis by both employers and employees is well established. We encourage the Governor to sign this bill, leaving the state's current non-compete policy intact."
Had Governor Patrick's proposed legislation passed, Massachusetts would have joined a handful of states--California being the most notable example--that prohibit or sharply limit post-employment non-competition agreements. It remains to be seen whether opponents of non-competes will get a bill passed in the future or whether the movement will fizzle. But at least for now, companies with employees in Massachusetts remain free to use appropriately tailored non-competes to protect their reasonable business interests.