Over the course of the past several years, several states have banned or severely restricted the ability of businesses to bind low-wage workers to post-employment restrictive covenants. Since 2007, Oregon has banned non-compete agreements for all employees except those who are exempt (as defined by the state’s overtime payment statute) and whose annualized compensation at the time of termination exceeds the median income of a four-person family, as determined by the United States Census Bureau for the most recent year available at the time of the employee’s termination ($56,119 per year based on most currently-available data). In 2016, Illinois passed a statute banning non-compete agreements with low-wage workers (defined in Illinois to be non-governmental workers making less than the greater of the prevailing federal, state, or local minimum wage or $13 per hour). In 2018, contained within a wider-ranging non-compete bill, Massachusetts also banned employers from entering into non-compete agreements with non-exempt employees, as those employees classification is defined by the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), as well as employees under age 18, paid or unpaid student interns, or other short-term student employees who are enrolled in school.
While such legislation trickled out over the last several years, 2019 has seen five additional states enact prohibitions on utilizing non-compete agreements for certain low-wage employees, with at least seven other states and the District of Columbia considering similar non-compete legislation.