Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan says the two-year noncompete agreements used at Jimmy John’s restaurants across the state are bad for workers and bad for businesses.
She's suing the sandwich shop to get them to stop asking workers to sign one.
But state Sen. Patricia Van Pelt, D-Chicago, said not all noncompete agreements are bad.
In fact, Van Pelt said the agreements often make sense.
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“I believe in noncompetes,” Van Pelt said. “I know in some cases what you're providing, what you're bringing is something no one else can bring.”
But Van Pelt said she draws the line at sandwich makers.
She authored a law to ban any company from asking a worker paid less than $13.50 an hour to sign a noncompete agreement.
Van Pelt said she had Jimmy Johns' in mind when she wrote the proposed law.
“When it comes to a sandwich [a noncompete] doesn't make sense to me,” Van Pelt said. “You would cause someone making a little over minimum wage to not get another job making a sandwich because they worked for you.”
But hourly workers don't have to just make sandwiches, said David From, state director for Americans for Prosperity in Illinois.
“Some of this is a little bit of a lack of respect for hourly workers and their ability to make good decisions,” From said.
Van Pelt said it makes sense for lawyers, salespeople and even radio hosts to sign noncompetes.
From said it's hypocritical to allow some bosses to ask some workers not to go to the competition, but not others.
But From wonders if Madigan's suit and Van Pelt's proposed law don't have another motivation.
“Jimmy John's as a company has been pretty active for conservative candidates and Republican campaigns. Jimmy Liautaud, the founder, has been pretty vocal about the wrong direction that Illinois' been moving over the last five years.”
Van Pelt said her law deals with Jimmy John’s because that's the only sandwich shop she knows of that uses noncompete clauses.
Both the Illinois House and Illinois Senate approved Van Pelt's legislation. It's now headed to Gov. Bruce Rauner's desk.