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The state Capitol in Olympia, Wash. Photo via Flickr.
The state Capitol in Olympia, Wash. Photo via Flickr.

OLYMPIA, Wash. — A bill to ban many non-compete provisions from employment agreements in Washington state passed out of the House Labor & Workplace Committee on Tuesday by a 4-2 vote, and is headed to a full House vote.

The committee recommended that the full House approve a bill by Rep. Derek Stanford, D-Bothell, which would render void unreasonable competition agreements. Under the bill, “unreasonable” non-compete agreements cover those for seasonal and temporary employees, laid-off employees, those terminated without just cause, and those involving independent contractors. The bill also forbids non-compete requirements that last for more than one year from the end of employment, and for employees who are not executives. 

RELATED POST: Debate: Venture capitalist and tech association leader spar over banning non-compete agreements

The vote followed testimony against the bill from business groups including the Washington Technology Industry Association and the Association of Washington Business; and testimony in favor of the bill from several labor groups.

A separate bill by Rep. Matt Manweller, R-Ellensburg, has apparently died in committee as the chairman Mike Sells, D-Everett, did not bring it up for a vote. Any non-budget bills that have not left their committees by Friday are considered dead under the Legislature’s procedural rules. Not calling for a committee vote is a common practice by all committee chairpersons in both parties to kill bills.

Manweller’s bill would ban non-compete requirements for a few professions with the idea of gradually adding other professions later on a case-by-case basis. Manweller’s bill would initially ban non-compete requirements for hair salon and manicurist employees, drywall applicators, musicians and fast-food workers. 

Stanford’s bill would bring Washington state more in line with California law, preventing companies from keeping departing employees from taking similar jobs at competing companies for specified periods of time after they leave.

It’s a hot-button issue in the technology industry. Companies in Washington state, including Microsoft and Amazon, have repeatedly used non-compete clauses in employment agreements to keep former executives and engineers from working for rivals. Amazon has even reportedly used non-compete requirements when hiring seasonal warehouse workers.

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