MA Noncompete Legislation is Dead … At Least for Now

The effort to substantially alter the landscape for noncompete agreements in Massachusetts via legislation has stalled. After advancing out of committee in the Massachusetts House of Representatives, the compromise legislation (described here) was included in an economic development bill with many other provisions and proposed amendments relating to business issues in the Commonwealth. As has been reported here on the Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM) blog, an economic development bill recently was passed by the House, but the noncompete legislation was dropped from the bill.

On July 20th, the Boston Bar Association sponsored a symposium entitled “Employee Non-Compete Agreements and Job Creation: The Status of Law Reform a Year Later,” at which several of the advocates and opponents of changes to current law presented their perspectives. Russell Beck, an attorney who was involved in drafting the compromise legislation, said that the legislation would not pass this year but that it had made substantial progress and is likely to pass in the next legislative year. (The state fiscal year is July 1 to June 30.) He also mentioned that the garden leave provision in the original compromise legislation (extending the permissible duration of a noncompete under certain circumstances), which had been excised from the bill while in committee, likely would be added back to the proposed legislation in light of significant feedback from interested parties.

Representative William Brownsberger, one of the sponsors of the compromise legislation, was not quite as optimistic as Russell Beck. Rep. Brownsberger suggested that a number of “big players” in the business community, who advocate the status quo, weighed in and impeded passage of the legislation. He suggested that going forward, a broader dialogue is required, with further input needed from interested parties, including chambers of commerce and industry groups. When asked to make a prediction, he simply indicated that he did not know whether and when noncompete legislation will pass.

Given all of the publicity this issue has attracted in the past couple of years, it is interesting that this significant new development so far has garnered little attention in the business press and blogosphere.

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