Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Information from .@RickHolman on non-compete agreements

After I wrote my post on former WAAY-TV reporter Shea Allen's non-compete clause, I received a series of tweets from Rick Holman. Now I have never heard of Holman before, so I figured I'd check his Twitter profile. Here's the first sentence of that profile:

Indie Author who writes about non-compete agreements.

So, what did Holman share with me?

First, he shared a link to this article about the Halifax Media Group. It's about print, not television, but obviously the same principles apply.

Halifax Media Group is the outfit that recently bought the New York Times Co.'s 16 regional newspapers. Just after it did, Halifax decided to require the papers' employees to sign an extremely onerous non-compete contract if they wanted to stay on the roster.

The contract meant that staffers who left the papers for any reason could not work for any news outlet in a market with a Halifax property for two years. In other words, even if you were fired, you couldn't take a media job in your hometown or any other Halifax city.

Those cities included Gainesville and Sarasota in Florida, Tuscaloosa in Alabama, and Santa Rosa in California. (We'll look at California again a little later in this post.) According to the American Journalism Review, Halifax backed off for the acquired employees, but still wanted to implement this for new employees. Or, as AJR put it:

The tone of the "employee non-solicitation, non-compete and confidentiality agreement" is relentlessly harsh. Halifax's approach makes Bain Capital seem like a socialist collective.

But that isn't the only thing that Rick Holman shared with me. It turns out that an employee signed a five-year two-county non-compete agreement with O'Bannon Publishing Company, and then tried to argue that the agreement was unenforceable because of the lengthy duration. The Indiana Court of Appeals rejected her claim (PDF).

If this topic interests you, then you might want to check into Holman's own story, and what he's doing about it.

P.S. Perhaps you've heard talk of sports figures who would rather work in Texas rather than California because of the different tax structures in the two states. But from Holman's perspective, working in California is infinitely preferable to working in Texas.

Dear Mr. Katz:

I was reading your op-ed piece from Town Hall today and thought I would help you in clearing things up as to why no one is going to move from California to Texas anytime soon. I realize that the LA Times piece did not mention this reason but the reality is that there is only one reason why this the case.

Anyway, the reason no one in California will move to Texas is because of non-compete agreements. If you’re not familiar with them, I can tell you briefly what my non-compete agreement is since it’s pretty standard in the industry. The bottom line is this: I’m an at Will employee and my company can fire me at any time for any reason and I can’t work in the industry for two years.

If this subject is new to you, I can tell you that your brothers and sisters who work at radio stations in different parts of the country are probably familiar with this since lawyers who draw up these non-compete agreements have run amuck in suing employees in your industry no matter how frivolous the lawsuit is....
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