The Council of the District of Columbia is considering a new bill that would ban the use of non-compete restrictions for workers below certain income thresholds—and impose stiff penalties upon employers who include such restrictions in their agreements. Introduced on October 8, 2019, the Ban on Non-Compete Agreements Amendment Act of 2019 (“the Bill”) places D.C. in line to join a growing number of states where non-compete restrictions upon low-income—and, in some cases, relatively high-income—employees are unenforceable.
The Bill would ban the use of non-compete agreements for employees who work in D.C. and who earn up to three times the D.C. minimum wage: $87,654 annually under current law. The Bill would ban such restrictions not just in written agreements, but also in an employer’s “workplace policy” whether in writing (i.e., through an employee handbook) or as a matter of the employer’s practice. Not only would such restrictions be void as a matter of law, but any employer who had such restrictions in place, regardless of whether or not the employer enforced them, would be separately liable to each affected employee in an amount “not less than $500 and not greater than $1,000.” Employers who attempt to enforce non-compete restrictions that fall below the Bill’s income threshold would be liable to affected employees in an amount “not less than $1,500.” Finally, employers who retaliate against employees for either (1) alleged violations of non-compete restrictions that would be unenforceable under the Bill or (2) inquiring about or informing an employer that the employer’s non-compete restrictions may be unenforceable under the Bill, would be liable to each such employee in an amount “not less than $1,000 and not more than $2,000.” Beyond liability to affected employees, the Bill would also empower the Mayor of the District of Columbia to impose fines for violations of the Bill in an amount up to $500, except for retaliatory conduct for which the fine would be at least $1,000.