While the rivaling Georgia gubernatorial candidates blast ads every five minutes across the airwaves, much of Georgia’s attention is on who will be the next Governor of Georgia. Most people have made their decision already and many have already cast an early ballot. All this attention is taking away from the proposed Amendment 1 to the Georgia Constitution.
What is Amendment 1? The question on the ballot will read, “Shall the Constitution be amended so as to make Georgia more economically competitive by authorizing legislation to uphold reasonable competitive agreements?”
Well, of course we as Georgia voters want the state to be more competitive, right? The obvious choice for most Georgians who are not aware of the real gist behind the legislation will vote ‘Yes’ and move onto the next proposal down the line on the ballots.
But wait. There has been some interesting dialogue on Amendment 1. I admit I would have easily voted ‘Yes’ without researching more. There is more than meets the eye. Basically it is a proposition that will benefit big corporations and will essentially throw the book at innovation or entrepreneurs. It stems from non-compete clauses. If you have ever had to sign one in order to gain employment, you know it limits your ability as an employee to work for a competitor or to branch out and begin your own business. In the past, Georgia judges have thrown out some of these non-compete lawsuits because they simply went against Georgia state law.
Pros of Amendment 1
Those advocating Amendment 1 say that it will make Georgia more alluring to outside corporations relocating to Georgia. This way, corporations will not have to worry over employees walking out the door to competitors or initiating a rival start-up. Intellectual property or secret formulas or other corporate information will be secure. No one will be able to hire a former employee. It is a win-win for corporations. If Amendment 1 passes, all non-compete lawsuits will be considered valid. If a judge throws out the non-compete clause as a violation of state law, it will not matter. Even if it is against state law, the non-compete clause will remain as a result.
Cons of Amendment 1
Employees, especially in a volatile Georgia economy with record unemployment, should be wary of any legislation that disables their rights as an employee. For example, let’s say you work for X Corporation which manufactures chemicals. You work in the lab and signed a non-compete clause. In your own time, at home, you come up with a chemical compound that will have amazing results. You will not be able to sell that to another company, you will not be able to manufacture it in your own company, and basically your current company will own it. This is only a supposed scenario. Any attempt to move forward will result in a lawsuit, and even if a judge throws out the paper you signed, Georgia legislation will prohibit you from marketing it to anyone.
Why Amendment 1 Can Be Dangerous
Any legislation that inhibits employee rights should be studied long and hard by Georgia workers. Unemployment in this state remains over 10%. It literally could happen to any Georgian. Amendment 1 could keep you from securing another job in your field of expertise. If this passes, I envision that every Georgia industry will make employees sign a blanket non-compete clause regardless of the field. This could be debilitating for the Georgia worker.
Sources: Atlanta Journal Constitution, Creative Loafing Atlanta, Tom Crawford, Editor, Georgia Report