Support House Bill 1794, To End Non-Competes in MA

by Darius Kazemi on April 10, 2009

in Uncategorized

Developers, listen up!
The Boston Post Mortem committee urges you to write your local state representative in favor of House Bill 1794 (bill text here, news article here). The gist of the bill is that it’s an attempt to make non-compete agreements unenforceable. A non-compete is a clause in your employment contract that says you can’t work for a competitor within a certain mile radius for a certain number of years. Jim Charne has an excellent explanation of non-competes, and how they relate to video game developers, in his November 2005 "Famous Last Words" column.
Many try to defend non-competes by saying that they prevent high-level executives from leaving a company, taking a team of people with them, and starting a competitor down the road. But this bill does not affect non-solicitation agreements (so the hypothetical exec could not take staff with her). Nor does it affect non-disclosure agreements.

In practice, non-competes prevent the movement of talent from company to company, which is a phenomenon conducive to a healthy business environment. One of the main reasons Silicon Valley was the site of the tech boom was that non-competes are essentially unenforceable in California. Non-competes can make moving from job to job in Massachusetts unpleasant, specifically because most of the available jobs are within the 495 belt.
I wrote to my state representative, and I urge you to write to yours. You can find your state Senator and Representative here. If you have to write to one, I would go with your Rep since this is a House bill. I’ve included the text of my letter here. You’re welcome to use this letter and modify it as you see fit.
Dear [Representative X / Senator Y]:

I am writing as a concerned constituent in support of House Bill 1794, which if passed will make non-compete agreements unenforceable.

This bill is exactly what the Commonwealth needs. I am a video game developer, and while the greater Boston area is one of the top locations worldwide for video game developers to make games, the growth of local industry is hindered by the fact that non-competes are enforceable in Massachusetts.

When non-competes prevent employees from doing similar work within 100 miles of their previous place of employment for a year (as is very common), these skilled workers are often forced to leave Massachusetts for other areas of the country. Every skilled worker we lose is a blow to our industry.

This effect applies not just to the video game industry — it applies to all technical fields, particularly in computer software development.

I urge you to support House Bill 1794. In these stark economic times, we have to do everything possible to retain our skilled workers.

Thank you,
[Your Name Here]

Rep. John Binienda said something in a speech to a small group of game developers a few months ago which resonated with me. He said that if a representative receives even a dozen well-reasoned letters or phone calls from his or her constituents, that can often sway a vote. That’s what I like about local politics: you can get stuff done.

Note: The above statement is a statement of the Boston Post Mortem / Boston IGDA Chapter organizing committee and as such represents the opinion of the chapter organizers alone. This is not necessarily the opinion of the IGDA as an international organization, nor is it necessarily the opinion of its Board members.


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