At the annual meeting of the Massachusetts Technology Leadership Council on March 12, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick reportedly described arguments in favor of eliminating the state’s longstanding approval of non-compete clauses as “compelling,” while stopping short of endorsing those efforts. 

During a question-and-answer session at the conference, Branko Gerovac, chief strategy officer at search engine optimization startup Jungle Torch, reportedly expressed concern that non-compete agreements cause businesses to leave for other states, particularly California, which prohibits them.  “The Boston area is falling behind,” he reportedly said, and the reason is that non-compete clauses decrease the available workforce for high-tech jobs.   

Governor Patrick reportedly said that the state’s strong technology sector has been critical in allowing Massachusetts to regain the total number of jobs lost during the recession, and he agrees that broad non-compete agreements restrain jobs.  He also reportedly noted that “there are a handful of tech sector people on the other side” of the debate. He also reportedly said, “I am not practicing law anymore but I have some serious doubts as a lawyer whether a [sic] non-compete is even enforceable in Massachusetts.”

In January, Sen. Will Brownsberger and Rep. Lori Ehrlich proposed legislation to limit non-compete agreements.  Under the bill, H1715, any agreement that lasts longer than six months would be “presumed unreasonable” and unenforceable in Massachusetts.  H1715 is still awaiting a date for a hearing before the Labor and Workforce Development Committee. We will keep you posted on any further material developments in the debate.