Here's How the Biden Administration Might Make It Easier for More People to Get Hired

by Maurie Backman | Published on Aug. 8, 2021

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By cracking down on how companies word contracts, lawmakers could help remove one barrier to getting a job.

Starting a new job often means signing a boatload of paperwork. First, there's personal data to supply, like your address and such. Then, you usually provide bank account information so your payroll department can set up check deposits.

But your employer may also ask that you sign employment contracts. And if that batch of documents includes a non-compete agreement, you may be in for a world of trouble.

What is a non-compete?

A non-compete is a legal agreement between a company and an employee. It restricts employees from working for a competitor within a certain time frame after leaving a job.

For example, say you work for a marketing firm that caters to dentists. Your non-compete agreement might bar you from working for another dental marketing firm for six months after you separate from your employer. Or that agreement may be broader, prohibiting you from working for any marketing company within that six months. It's easy to see why an employer might want you to sign a non-compete, but the problem is that they limit your employment opportunities if you leave your job.

In fact, many people sign non-competes without realizing what they're getting into. That's why the Biden administration wants to crack down on non-competes. And that could make it easier for a lot of people to grow their careers and pursue job opportunities.

Getting rid of a major barrier

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) cites surveys revealing that 16% to 18% of U.S. workers are subject to non-compete agreements. And 30% to 40% of those workers are asked to sign a non-compete right after accepting a job offer -- sometimes the first day on the job. If you're put in that position, you might sign a non-compete before you've even had a chance to set up your desk, let alone figure out if your new job is a good fit.

Now the Biden administration is calling on the FTC to write a rule curbing the unfair use of non-compete agreements that limit workers' options. And if it goes through, it'll give many workers -- particularly those in specialized fields -- a lot less to worry about.

So what should you do if you've signed a non-compete and it prevents you from getting the type of job you want? Your best bet may be to consult an employment lawyer.

Some non-competes are more enforceable than others. Going back to our example above, if you work in dental marketing, a non-compete barring you from working for another dental marketing firm is likely to hold up a lot better than an agreement prohibiting you from working in the marketing field altogether. Broader non-competes are generally harder to enforce, but it pays to get a professional to look at the contract you signed and walk you through your options.

Meanwhile, if you're starting a new job and you're asked to sign a non-compete, know that you have the right to say no, or to, at the very least, ask to run that contract by an attorney. A lawyer may be able to help you negotiate your non-compete so that it's less limiting and less likely to prevent you from getting a new job when you're ready for one.

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