Government officials love to write a lot of mumbo jumbo into their policies and procedures. One of the most confusing places to find that mumbo jumbo is on the election ballot when there are amendments or referendums to vote on.
Take the first amendment on the 2010 ballot here in Georgia for instance.
Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to make Georgia more economically competitive by authorizing legislation to uphold reasonable competitive agreements?
At first glance, it seems completely harmless, doesn’t it? Of course, we all want our state to be more economically competitive, especially in this economy. Right?
Well, the first assumption is that this amendment pertains to making the state of Georgia more competitive, and that is not necessarily the case. In fact, this amendment has nothing to do with making our state more competitive, it has everything to do with making it economically competitive for companies within the state when they hire new employees.
Most people, including this writer, got the impression this was about the state bidding for jobs; but as people in the know begin to speak up it seems it is more about controlling employees on the job; and preventing them from leaving one job and taking one with a competitor doing the same work. In this situation, they are asked to sign an agreement that they will not take a job with a competitor for at least two years after leaving their present employer.
We’ve all seen non-compete agreements, heck I’ve even signed a few in my time. But think about the consequences of this being done on a widespread basis across the entire state.
For example, let’s say you are skilled in tailoring, and you go to work for a small company. On your first day you fill out all your new employee paperwork you sign this new non-compete agreement. Then, just three months later you get laid-off as the company makes cutbacks. Guess what? You still have 21 months before you can work for another company in a similar role. Ouch.
Sure, companies would be happier knowing when they hire someone they won’t stick around for training and then bust loose for a better paying job down the road, but what about those who are honest, hard working, people who want to do a good job but get screwed in the end?
I’m sure the argument about this amendment could be explained logically from either side, but the key word in the proposed amendment is “reasonable”. What exactly would a “reasonable” competitive agreement consist of? Well, we can’t be sure of that before the amendment is passed into law can we?
My recommendation at this time, based on the wording of the amendment, is to vote no. We don’t need the state of Georgia interfering with the employment practices in the private sector.
If you’re in a highly skilled profession and the employer asks you sign a non-compete agreement, that’s one thing. Making it a law is just stupid.