One way for women to escape sexual assault or harassment is to get new jobs, even if they pay less. But noncompete clauses rob them of this leverage.
After decades of virtual silence, the #MeToo movement has publicized the epidemic of sexual harassment and assault in the workplace. The recent New York Times investigation of Sterling Jewelers exposes the depth of the problem and shows how long and hard women’s fight for justice remains. Since women who complain about harassment face retaliation and even termination, often the only way to escape it is to find a new job. Yet for many women, continuing their careers with a new employer turns out to be impossible.
That is because of noncomplete clauses. After they have resigned or even been fired, workers bound by noncompetes cannot accept employment in the same line of work or industry as their former employer for a specified period in a certain city, state or even the entire country. Nearly 30 million working people, including more than 12 million women, are locked into their jobs because of noncompete clauses.
Employers thus prevent their workers from leaving for employers offering higher wages, better benefits and dignity on the job. Incredibly, as a 2013 case in Florida shows, some employers even try to enforce noncompetes in court against workers who left after being subjected to alleged sexual harassment.