The Human Factor in Noncompete Disputes: Howie Carr is Still Upset Over 5 Years After His Lawsuit with WRKO

I am a fan of talk radio, so I was sad when I heard that Boston’s WTKK-FM 96.9 had decided to switch from a talk-radio format to a station featuring “rhythm and dance music from today, along with throwbacks from the ’80s and ’90s.”  Now I listen to WRKO-AM 680, the only talk station left in Boston.

One of the big names on WRKO is conservative Howie Carr, who also writes a column for the Boston Herald.  Carr was involved in a lawsuit with WRKO in 2007 when he announced his intention to accept an offer from WTKK and move his program to that station.  He lost that lawsuit because of a right-of-first-refusal in his contract with WRKO, as Michael Rosen explained here and here.  He’s been with WRKO ever since.

But apparently Carr has just been waiting to make a jump to FM.  About two weeks ago, he wrote a column in the Herald lamenting his loss in the lawsuit, writing “I’m still damn sorry I didn’t make good my escape from the AM band” and “WTKK wouldn’t be turning off the lights next week if I could have just gotten over there back in 2007.”  He also wrote that “WTKK [has] one of the best signals in the city, on FM, and WRKO’s signal is — well, please, don’t get me started on that.  My head will explode.  Again.”  Carr concludes by announcing that, “[i]n two years, I’ll be on FM, one way or another.”

Carr’s attitude towards WRKO highlights the human factor in noncompete disputes.  Employers should be careful what they wish for when they make employees sign noncompetes.  If an employee is unhappy with his job, but feels stuck in that job because of a noncompete he signed with his employer, then what the employer gets is an unhappy, often less productive, employee.  Employers should balance their interests in protecting their businesses with those of having a content and productive workforce when deciding whether to have employees sign noncompetes and how onerous those noncompetes should be.

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