December 10, 2018

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Illinois Cracks Down on Noncompetes for Low-Wage Workers

Should the teenage workers who make your deli sandwich (or bus tables or perform other routine entry-level work) be able to move from one job to another without running afoul of a noncompete? The court of public opinion thought so, as evidenced by the controversy that erupted over the Jimmy Johns sandwich chain’s much-publicized business plan that even low-level workers should be subjected to post-employment restrictions, as we reported here.

Now the Illinois General Assembly has stepped in with the new Illinois Freedom to Work Act to outlaw covenants-not-to-compete for low-wage workers.

Effective January 1, 2017, an employer and a low-wage employee are prohibited from entering into any agreement that restricts the employee from performing work for another employer for a specified period of time or that restricts the employee from working in a particular geographic area or working for another employer that is similar to the low-wage employee’s work for the employer.

A “low-wage” employee is defined as someone who earns $13 per hour or the local, state or federal minimum wage if it is greater than $13. For such workers, an agreement with restrictive covenants as described in the act will be “illegal and void.”

So, entry-level workers will soon be free to job hop around Illinois without fear of a looming lawsuit over post-employment restrictive covenants.

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About this Author

Jennifer Cerven, Barnes Thornburg Law Firm, Chicago, Labor and Employment and Litigation Law Attorney,
Staff Attorney

Jennifer Cerven is a staff attorney in the Chicago, Illinois office of Barnes & Thornburg LLP, where she is a member of the Labor and Employment Law Department.

She concentrates her practice in the defense of employment discrimination matters before administrative agencies including the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Illinois Department of Human Rights, as well as other federal, state, and local agencies. In addition, Ms. Cerven defends employers in employment discrimination matters before various federal and state...

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