Because sometimes you need to read what you sign

Judd Hausner, a 26-year-old beer salesman, quit his job of four years with the Boston Beer Company aka Sam Adams.  Mr. Hausner left his position with the Boston Beer Company to work in sales for Anchor Brewing Company in San Francisco.

Mr. Hausner is now at the center of a lawsuit.  The cause of his misfortune is a non-compete agreement he signed with the Boston Beer Company.  That agreement, can be found at this link.  The agreement stipulates that unless Mr. Hausner received consent, Mr. Hausner could not engage in the marketing, sale or distribution of malt beverages for a period of one year after he left the Boston Beer Company.

Mr. Hausner has taken his plight to his facebook page.  In his plea he describes himself as a “26-year-old kid” who could never imagine there would be an issue.  He complains that “[i]t is simply ridiculous to think that in [his] role with Anchor, a company 20 times smaller than Sam Adams, that [he] could have some ‘special trade secrets’ that could negatively affect Sam Adams.”  He continues that he “find[s] it somewhat absurd that Boston Beer claims that [he] ha[s] any information that could negatively harm them.”

I am sympathetic to Mr. Hausner’s plight.  It does not make sense to prohibit willing and able job seekers from obtaining better or different employment.  But non-competes can be a legitimate way for an employer to protect its interests.  And if you sign one, you can’t just expect your former employer to ignore it because you think it is silly or because you are just some 26-year-old kid (whatever that means).

It will be interesting to follow this case.  California bans non-competes.  But Mr. Hausner’s former employer  is located in Massachusetts, a state that still enforces them.  Moreover, the agreement specifically states that it is governed by Massachusetts law.  Massachusetts, by the way, is on the verge of a non-compete revolution — there is a growing movement to ban these agreements in that state too.

So who knows how this will play out.  A copy of the complaint can be found at this link.

Good beer. Great packaging.

I suggest ignoring this whole controversy and trying Magic Hat’s Night of the Living Dead Sampler.

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~ by siouxsielaw on October 14, 2011.

7 Responses to “Because sometimes you need to read what you sign”

  1. I read this guy’s Facebook and the contract. I don’t have a lot of sympathy for him. He is a grown-up and he signed a contract. Now, he has to deal with the consequences.

  2. As a member of the same age bracket, I’d tell the guy to grow up. He’s been a legal adult for eight years now, is capable of reading, and as an adult (even four years ago) should have known better than to sign a contract he felt he would have issues adhering to. Pulling the age card at 26 just makes him look irrisponsible. It also reflects badly on the rest of us “kids” who have worked hard to be judged as valuable employees based on our own merit, maturity, and hard work while other “kids” try to slide by with as little effort as possible.

    • Yeah, there is something about pulling the age card at 26 that just doesn’t work. If you are 90-years-old you can call someone who is 26 a kid. But you can’t call yourself a kid when you are almost thirty.

  3. I’ve signed a non-compete with my company, and while, alas, considerably older than Mr. Hausner, I’ve been fully aware of its implications since Day One. In fact, my company just reached a successful settlement with a competitor it sued over, among other things, employment of those covered by its non-competes.

    I am not thrilled by the idea of non-competes, but until they are legally eliminated, they are one of the realities of working for a Massachusetts company.

  4. Even though California has a ban on non-competes some companies still try to use them to cow employees, or contractors. My boyfriend’s former employer, a video game developer, had him and the other contractors (the only employees they have are the people that own the company,) sign contracts with non-competes, despite being based in California. Not only that, they have no concept of what a contractor actually does, or their rights. They gave them offices, equipment, and required them to come to the business to work. That’s an employee according to California and the IRS. But they don’t get any benefits of being either employees or contractors. No unemployment insurance, no option of health care, no ownership of what they create on their own time. All these parts of the contract are unenforceable in California, thank goodness, because my boyfriend left the company to start his own. So if they sue he’s not worried. He says he’d actually be flattered, because then he’d know he was successful.

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