One thing that has always motivated me is those typical “David v. Goliath” stories. This week someone came into the office with a “cease and desist” letter that they had received from their former employer, a local roofing company. This is not the first time I have come across these letters from local roofers. Essentially the roofing company will claim that they trained the employee, and the (many times non-English speaking) employee signed a “non-compete” agreement when they started. Therefore, the former employee is banned from working in the roofing industry for THREE years should they leave the company.
These kinds of clauses are not unusual in the business world. People learn trade secrets, client lists, special proprietary, and technological information, but the length of time for the “non-compete” clause must be reasonable. In this case, this is a crew leader of a group of men that stand on a roof in the blazing heat and strip layers of old shingles and replace rotted wood. It is hard manual labor that many people do not want to do. It’s not complicated, it is just difficult.
There are no trade secrets in that hard manual labor, there is no specialized training and investment that the company makes in employing these people. It is VERY questionable as to whether or not the employees even know what they are signing because many do not speak English. For these companies (and their legal counsel) to then try to scare these individuals into believing that they will be sued if they work for another roofing company is despicable! I would love for the corporation’s legal counsel to explain all the specialized training and trade secrets that they gave these laborers to justify a three-year ban on future employment with a different roofing company.
What they are counting on is that the workers will just get scared and leave. That these workers don’t have money to hire an attorney. They are preying upon a group of hardworking tax-paying individuals who are trying to better their own life as well as the lives of their families and there is nothing honorable or “American” about that. Nobody deserves to be bullied, not by the large corporations, the government or anyone else.