A year ago popular sandwich maker Jimmy John's made news for their use of noncompete agreements for their employees, many of whom were low wage earners. While many scoffed at these agreements, Jimmy John's fared well in court winning a defense to an injunction filed in federal court in Illinois. In response, the Illinois General Assembly has passed legislation, the Illinois Freedom to Work Act, effective January 1, 2017, whereby an employer and a low-wage employee are prohibited from entering into any agreement that restricts the employee from performing work for another employer for a specified period of time or that restricts the employee from working in a particular geographic area or working for another employer that is similar to the low-wage employee’s work for the employer.
A “low-wage” employee is defined as someone who earns $13 per hour or
the local, state or federal minimum wage if it is greater than $13. For
such workers, an agreement with restrictive covenants as described in
the act will be “illegal and void.”
It'll be interesting to see if other states follow suit. Currently, Wisconsin strongly disfavors noncompete agreements, but legislation was introduced by Republicans in the state to make them easier to enforce, though that legislation doesn't appear to have been passed.