Jimmy Johns Enters the Non-Compete Debate

In a case that has gained national headlines, a former Jimmy John’s employee is suing the freaky fast sandwich maker over potential wage violations and an alleged unlawful non-compete agreement.

Plaintiff Caitlin Turowski worked for Jimmy John’s as a delivery driver and later as an Assistant Manager.  As a part of her employment, she signed a non-compete agreement prohibiting her from working within a three (3) mile radius of Jimmy John’s stores.  The agreement specified that the prohibition covered any employer who gains in excess of 10% of its revenue from selling sandwiches.  It remains to be seen to what extent, if any, Jimmy Johns attempts to enforce these agreements.

Jimmy John’s non-compete agreements have attracted national attention because of the employment restrictions placed on purportedly lower wage workers.  Opponents of such agreements argue that rank and file employees are ill-equipped to defend themselves against enforcement of such agreements compared with higher paid, skilled workers.  In other words, opponents have taken the position that regardless of enforceability, which varies greatly from state to state, the agreements intimidate employees from exploring other employment opportunities.  Those opponents argue that the non-competition agreements should be unenforceable for these reasons alone, regardless of whether they are otherwise enforceable under state law.  However, many believe that non-competition agreements should be unenforceable as a matter of law because they minimize competition and keep many employees from securing jobs that they are otherwise qualified for simply because of the existence of the non-competition agreement.

Non-competition agreements will continue to be a hotly debated employment law issue throughout 2015 and likely beyond.  While some states have already enacted laws eradicating them, other states enforce them routinely provided that certain prerequisites are met.  Many business owners argue that it is unfair for them to train and pay someone to develop relationships with customers or gain confidential knowledge of trade secret information, only to turn around and use those relationships and knowledge against them on behalf of a competitor.  Others counter this argument by stating that business owners should never let one person gain such control over relationships that they can take them away and go to a competitor.  Regardless, if you seek to use non-competition or non-solicitation agreements in your business with your employees, care must be taking in drafting them to give you the best chance of enforcing those agreements when you need to do so.

The St. Louis employment attorneys at McMahon Berger have been representing employers across the country in labor and employment matters, including those relating to non-competition agreements, for almost sixty years, and are available to discuss these issues and others.  As always, the foregoing is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice regarding any particular situation as every situation must be evaluated on its own facts. The choice of a lawyer is an important decision and should not be based solely on advertisements.

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