Utah’s TV stations could lose some authority to impose non-compete agreements on their employees under a bill approved by lawmakers Wednesday.
Non-compete clauses prevent certain employees from going to work for a competitor. Utah TV stations say they use the agreements to keep high-profile talent on their channels.
But Rep. Mike Schultz, R-Hooper, says media companies are abusing non-compete clauses, using them to keep wages low and remove employee bargaining power.
“It is clear to me that the abuses inside the broadcasting industry with these non-competes are widespread," he said.
Schultz’ legislation would ban non-competes for employees making less than $47,500 a year and limit contracts with non-compete clauses to four years. It would also prevent employers from enforcing the agreements if the employer is the one to break a contract.
Schultz says he’s heard from dozens of current and former employees of Utah’s TV stations, saying they support the bill but didn’t feel they could speak out publicly for fear of retribution. Other members of the media have tweeted support for the legislation.
I’m a Utah broadcaster and I support #HB241. Noncompetes shouldn't keep hardworking journalists from earning a living for 12 months AFTER finishing a contract. If you treat them good, they won't want to walk across the street! #utleg #utpol @utahsenate @utahreps @utpol @GHughes51
— Allison Croghan (@AllisonCroghan) February 9, 2018
Some lawmakers, including Rep. Merrill Nelson, R-Grantsville, expressed concerned that the bill targets the news media.
“By shackling them with this bill and saying ‘you cannot protect yourself by holding these key employees to you,’ we are burdening their business,” Nelson said. “We are violating their rights.”
Television stations have been lobbying against the bill. One lawmaker even pointed out that no TV cameras were in the gallery to cover the debate. The measure passed the House with a vote of 62-12 and will next be heard in the Senate.