Jimmy John’s Making Workers Sign Oppressive Noncompete Agreements

jimmy johns

You might want to re-think your go-to sandwich shop after you hear this:

Ever heard of a “noncompete agreement”? It’s an agreement that companies sometimes ask employees to sign in order to make sure their competitors can’t gain information from them. These are typically used for managers or employees who could exploit a business’s information by jumping jobs and working for a company’s competitor.

Jimmy John’s, along with many other corporations, uses noncompete agreements. They makes employees sign one upon hiring. Here’s the catch: not only do managers and top employees have to sign them, but every single Jimmy John’s worker from delivery men to sandwich makers has to sign one.

The agreement states that the employee is not allowed to work at one of the sandwich chain’s competitors for a period of two years following employment at Jimmy John’s.

The company’s definition of a “competitor” goes way further than other sandwich shops. The noncompete classifies “competitor” as any business that’s near a Jimmy John’s location and that makes a mere 10 percent of its income from sandwiches.

That means any local deli, market, restaurant or sandwich shop that happens to sell sandwiches near Jimmy John’s are exempt from hiring former Jimmy John’s employees.

What’s the point of gaining work experience in a field if you won’t be able to use it in any other restaurants?

Here’s what the agreement said:

“Employee covenants and agrees that, during his or her employment with the Employer and for a period of two (2) years after … he or she will not have any direct or indirect interest in or perform services for … any business which derives more than ten percent (10%) of its revenue from selling submarine, hero-type, deli-style, pita and/or wrapped or rolled sandwiches and which is located with three (3) miles of either [the Jimmy John’s location in question] or any such other Jimmy John’s Sandwich Shop.”

There are currently two lawsuits against the franchise. Jimmy John’s workers accused the company of engaging in wage theft by forcing employees to work off the clock. It was in the hearings that one of the workers brought up the agreement, saying the noncompete agreement is “overly broad” and “oppressive” to employees.

Definitely oppressive.

The lawyer representing the case gave a great example of the sweeping implications of the agreement: she said the effective blackout area for a former Jimmy John’s worker would cover 6,000 square miles in 44 states and the District of Columbia, with its more than 2,000 locations.

This noncompete agreement steps over the line. The idea of the agreement is so that other companies can’t poach high-end workers with lots of confidential information, NOT so that workers can’t find another job.

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