Non-competes: You either love em or hate em.

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I see in Shoptalk that an anchor in Rochester, NY is going to court to challenge her non-compete clause with her former employer. In a story in the Rochester City News, the former reporter who is a native of the city, wants to stay in the area to work. Her non-compete doesn’t allow her to work in the market for a specific period of time. Legislation has been introduced in the state to make such non-compete clauses illegal. So far, four other states; Arizona, Illinois, Maine, and Massachusetts, have taken such efforts. It seems to me that a measure was proposed in Tennessee and in North Carolinaa few years ago, but both were basically shot down.
In some cases, non-competes have been waived. Such was the case here in the Bluff City when a couple of folks were let go from one station in recent years. They hired on at the competition not long after.
However, if the anchor or reporter decides to NOT work anymore at a particular station, that station tends to enforce the non-compete. If another station really wanted somebody, they’d pay off the non-compete. I think we’ve come close to seeing that a couple of times in the Bluff City, but it’s never happened. If you qualify as talent, most stations require you to sign a contract which includes a non-compete clause. In some cases, producers and videographers in Memphis have been required to sign non-competes. You don’t sign, they don’t hire. In my limited experience, non-competes are generally not negotiable. Some attorneys will tell you the non-compete can’t be enforced. But those who would challenge it are generally jobless with no way of paying the legal bills and I think it’s safe to say the station involved would love to make an example of someone as a warning to otherswho would dare to challenge them. Stations also tend to have deeper pockets and are ready and willing to throw a pack of attorneys on the case.
Hey, if you sign it, you should honor it unless it goes overboard and some of them do.
Both sides can present good arguments. The station will argue that they have invested a lot of money in a person in the way of promotion and salary. They say they don’t want to do that if that person can waltz across town to the competition. They also contend they didn’t force anyone to sign a contract with a non-compete clause. The talent on the other hand will argue that they should be free to shop their skills around and that not being able to do so stifles competition in the labor market. But I will have to say the most interesting argument against the non-compete comes from union lobbyist Tom Carpenter of New York who was quoted in the Rochester City News as saying, “It really does compress wages in the industry. With a non-compete clause, reporters and anchors can’t really negotiate to find out what the market will bear for their services.” Carpenter, director of legislative affairs for the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists by the way is a primary person behind the pending legislation.
It will be interesting to see what happens to this case in New York. Will It have a ripple effect this far south? I’d really be surprised if it does. I expect to see non-competes enforced for a long time in this neck of the woods.

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2 Comments on “Non-competes: You either love em or hate em.”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    Non-competes for the most part are WRONG! IF you want a job you sign, if not you don’t have a job. Stations only “invest” in their main anchors and even then “invest” is in the eye of the beholder. The states that have banned non-competes have not seen a talent exodus, in-fact i’ve heard of non.

  2. Joe Larkins Says:

    Yah, the non-competes sure give the station a huge advantage. I think part of the problem stems from what some stations feel they can keep a person from doing after they leave. If it’s limited to local broadcast TV that’s one thing, but if it’s everything under the sun such as cable or internet or radio, then I think they’ve crossed the line. Some operations feel they truly own you lock, stock and barrel and that you will have to leave the market and not work anywhere in the business if you don’t want to work for them. That, in my opinion, is overkill.

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