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Jimmy John's requires employees to sign rigid noncompetes

In our last post, we discussed the potential consequences of breaching an employment contract. These contracts are often essential in protecting employers and employees, but there are times when the terms of these contracts seem to go too far and there may be reason to question whether they can or should be enforced.

For example, news about some rigid employment contracts at Jimmy John's, a popular sandwich restaurant with location all across Ohio, recently raised some eyebrows. The contracts have spurred discussions regarding the extent to which certain contracts should limit employee commitments.

According to reports, employees at Jimmy John's are required to sign noncompete agreements that limits their job opportunities if they leave the company. The contract stipulates that all employees -- including delivery drivers and in-store sandwich-makers -- are prohibited from working at any similar establishment for two years after leaving Jimmy John's. 

Under the terms of the noncompete, workers are not allowed to work at any restaurant that serves similar menu items within three miles of any Jimmy John's. With nearly 70 locations just in Ohio, that significantly limits the employment prospects of any worker wishing to leave Jimmy John's. 

The concern about these contracts centers on the argument that they are overly aggressive and do not protect the people and interests noncompete agreements are intended to protect. In general, noncompete clauses are designed to prevent employees from sharing sensitive or inside information with competitors; in most cases, the agreements are reserved only for high-ranking employers.

Because Jimmy John's contract is unnecessarily broad, the terms may prove to be unenforceable. However, many employees may not know this and could be very scared or intimidated by the contract and ultimately miss out on different employment opportunities. 

People on either side of an employment contract should remember that they have the right to discuss the terms of that agreement with an attorney. Employers should be sure that their agreements adequately protect them without damaging the reputation of a company, while employees should know if they are, in fact, bound by the terms of a contract.

Source: Slate, "Jimmy John's Makes Its Employees Sign A Ridiculous Noncompete Agreement," Alison Griswold, Oct. 15, 2014

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