Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner has signed new rules into law that prohibits companies from issuing non-compete agreements to low-wage employees. This new law will make it easier for low-wage earners to pursue career advancement and opportunities beyond those offered by their current employer. It is a change to the law that will provide a considerable number of opportunities for workers throughout the state.
The Illinois Freedom to Work Act applies to workers earning $13 or less per hour. It considers non-compete agreements for these employees to be illegal and arose following litigation initiated against Jimmy John’s by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan. The famous sub chain had forced its low-wage earners into non-compete agreements that prohibited them from pursuing openings and opportunities with other competing fast-food franchises. The law will go into effect on January 1, 2017.
What it Means for Employees
The Illinois Freedom to Work Act allows employees to pursue career opportunities with other employers without facing any restrictions. In the absence of non-compete restrictions, employees cannot be stopped from working within any geographic area, or for any competitor of their present employer. This will create opportunities for upward mobility for all low-wage earners regardless of their current profession.
Employers Can Be Sued for Violating the Law
While the law prohibits employers from issuing non-compete agreements, that doesn’t mean all employers will comply. Employment lawyers can help low-wage earners pursue damages and compensation from employers who attempt to enforce non-compete agreements. Employees would have a solid foundation for filing a lawsuit as the courts would reject any attempts to enforce non-compete agreements for low-wage earners.
What the Law Does Not Protect
The new law is not being applied retroactively. This means that non-compete agreements entered into before January 1, 2017 may still be enforceable. Moreover, the law does not prohibit employers from enforcing confidentiality and non-disclosure provisions. Throughout the state, employment lawyers are helping companies adapt and adopt employment agreements that are in accordance with this year’s changes to Illinois employment law.
Further, the law does not prohibit non-compete agreements or restrictive covenants on higher wage employees. While legislators are still eyeing changes to the scope and provisions contained within non-compete agreements, these remain unchanged at the present time. These agreements are considered enforceable. Barring overly excessive restrictions or covenants, high-wage employees are still bound by the agreements they have signed with their employers.