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New Bill Would Ban Non-Compete Clauses for Restaurant Workers

The move is a response to a policy at a number of Jimmy John's locations.

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Here's some good news for fast food workers: Two Democratic senators say they plan to introduce a bill that would ban businesses from including non-compete clauses in contracts with low-wage employees. According to the Hill, Senator Chris Murphy (Connecticut) and Al Franken (Minnesota) want to make it so that those who earn less than $15 an hour, $31,200 annually, or must work a minimum wage job do not have to agree to contracts that prevent them from working at a similar business.

The move comes after news broke that some Jimmy John's sandwich shops require some workers — many of whom make less than $15 per hour — to sign intense two-year non-compete agreements "prohibiting them from working at retail stores that make at least 10 percent of their sales from sandwiches." The Huffington Post writes that this non-compete is "oppressive" and is "effectively blacklisting [former employees] from whole cities for a period of time."

Last fall, 35 House Democrats sent a letter to the chairwoman of the Federal Trade Commission asking them to look into the issue of non-competes for low wage workers: "Non-competition agreements may sometimes make sense for well-compensated core company leadership, who are privy to company secrets and strategies...However, applying them to a company's entire workforce looks more like bullying under color of law, as well as a violation of labor rights."

Jimmy John's isn't the only restaurant to make employees sign a crazy contract. The owners of Amy's Baking Company — the Arizona restaurant made famous on Gordon Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares — made staff members agree to a 20-item list of terms. Some of these terms included not being allowed to have their cell phone while working and not being allowed to bring in outside food or drink.

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