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OLYMPIA, Wash. — Public hearings will be held Monday on two Washington House bills that seek to ban some or all non-compete provisions from employment contracts.

Rep. Derek Stanford
Rep. Derek Stanford

The bills 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.

The House Labor & Workplace Standards Committee will receive testimony at 1:30 p.m. Monday at the John O’Brien Building on the Capitol campus in Olympia on a bill by Rep. Derek Stanford, D-Bothell, to outlaw all non-compete contractual agreements, and on a bill by Rep. Matt Manweller, R-Ellensburg, to ban non-compete requirements for a few professions with the idea of gradually adding other professions later on a case-by-case basis.

In other words, Stanford’s bill would immediately ban non-compete requirements in the technology world, while Manweller’s bill would not.

“The use of these restrictive contracts in low-wage and middle-class jobs has become rampant, particularly in our region,” Stanford said in a press statement. “For two years now I’ve worked with every-day people from across the state who have had their lives derailed because of non-compete clauses and subsequent lawsuits from employers just looking to bully them out of the market.”

This is the second year in which Stanford has tried to get this bill through the Legislature.

Rep. Matt Manweller
Rep. Matt Manweller

While non-compete agreements in several blue-collar professions prompted the two bills, Stanford and Manweller voiced similar objections to this practice also being commonly used in high-tech fields. Frequently, temporary software developers, coders and web designers working with temp agencies are forced to sign contracts that prohibit them from finding a “similar” job after their temporary employment ends.

“For high-level managers, CEOs and vice presidents who are in charge of proprietary business strategy, non-compete agreements could be reasonable. But leave the little guys out of this. Leave out the temporary workers, the mid-level managers, the young and bright entrepreneurs who will take their skills and start ‘the next big thing,’ ” Stanford said.

In a phone interview, Manweller said: “I’m a guy who doesn’t believe in artificial barriers to seeking a job.”

Manweller think this bill has a better chance of passing the House and Senate because it starts out with a limited number of bans on non-compete requirements while expecting to add others — such as in the high-tech professions — in future years. His bill initially bans non-compete requirements for hair salon and manicurist employees, drywall applicators, musicians and fast-food workers.

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