Non-compete agreements constitute a hot topic in Georgia these days.
Here's why. The state, along with only seven others, has relevant law that voids an entire non-compete agreement if a single clause in the agreement is deemed illegal and thus unenforceable. That contrasts to the law in a great majority of states, pursuant to which a judge can strike a specific provision from a non-compete, while holding the remainder of the agreement enforceable.
The Georgia Legislature has firmly aligned itself with change, enacting a law earlier this year that would conform state law to the majority view. Many state politicians subscribe to the view held by the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, which is that changing the law will make Georgia more competitive with other states in securing business, while also allowing those businesses to better protect their intellectual property.
The enactment falls far short, though, of actually bringing about a change. There is first a major hurdle that must be cleared, namely, a requirement that state voters amend the Georgia Constitution this autumn to strike a provision therein that disallows the very change sought to be made by the Legislature. Without amendment passage, the current law will continue to exist.
Proponents and foes have squared off, and are vocal. A representative view of those favoring change is voiced by Rep. Kevin Levitas, D-Atlanta, who says that, "This is an attempt to bring uniformity, predictability and reasonable balance back in the areas of Georgia employment law." Conversely, critics say that existing law already provides companies with sufficient protections and allows for an important balancing element enabling employees to find new jobs. Current law, they maintain, forces employers to be specific with the language employed in non-competes. New law would allow them to be more vague and construct agreements that would unduly hamper workers and unreasonably impinge on their ability to seek new employment.
Related Resource: www.acj.com "New law would ease enforcement of noncompete agreements" September 16, 2010