Live In Massachusetts? Support House Bill 1794, to End Most Non-Competes

by Darius Kazemi on April 10, 2009

in activism,business,law,massachusetts,politics

Live in Massachusetts? If so, I urge you to write your local state representative in favor of House Bill 1794 (bill text here, news article here). The gist of the bill is that it’s an attempt to make non-compete agreements unenforceable. A non-compete is a clause in your employment contract that says you can’t work for a competitor within a certain mile radius for a certain number of years. Jim Charne has an excellent explanation of non-competes, and how they relate to video game developers, in his November 2005 “Famous Last Words” column.

Many try to defend non-competes by saying that they prevent high-level executives from leaving a company, taking a team of people with them, and starting a competitor down the road. But this bill does not affect non-solicitation agreements (so the hypothetical exec could not take staff with her).
In practice, non-competes prevent the movement of talent from company to company, which is a phenomenon conducive to a healthy business environment. One of the main reasons Silicon Valley was the site of the tech boom was that non-competes are essentially unenforceable in California.
I wrote to my state representative, and I urge you to write to yours. You can find your state Senator and Representative here. I’ve included the text of my letter here. You’re welcome to use this letter and modify it as you see fit.
Dear [Representative X / Senator Y]:

I am writing as a concerned constituent in support of House Bill 1794, which if passed will make non-compete agreements unenforceable.

This bill is exactly what the Commonwealth needs. I am a video game developer, and while the greater Boston area is one of the top locations worldwide for video game developers to make games, the growth of local industry is hindered by the fact that non-competes are enforceable in Massachusetts.

When non-competes prevent employees from doing similar work within 100 miles of their previous place of employment for a year (as is very common), these skilled workers are often forced to leave Massachusetts for other areas of the country. Every skilled worker we lose is a blow to our industry.

This effect applies not just to the video game industry — it applies to all technical fields, particularly in computer software development.

I urge you to support House Bill 1794. In these stark economic times, we have to do everything possible to retain our skilled workers.

Thank you,
[Your Name Here]


charne April 11, 2009 at 1:39 am

Hi Darius — that’s my column you cited — thanks for the shout out! But it’s called “Famous Last Words.” My friend, Tom Sloper, writes “The Games Game.”

Jim Charne
Santa Monica, CA

Darius Kazemi April 11, 2009 at 5:12 am

Jim, I’ve fixed the citation, sorry about that!

Justin Biller April 19, 2009 at 2:53 am

I need to keep up to date with this in case I ever end up back in MA.

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