Issues discussed at the state Legislature don’t always stay at the state Legislature.
Two prominent Seattle tech leaders had a heated conversation Tuesday on Twitter about proposed bills that would restrict, and in some cases ban, non-compete clauses from employee agreements.
A bill proposed by Rep. Derek Stanford, D-Bothell, would make the provisions unenforceable in the state.
Another, proposed by Rep. Matt Manweller, R-Ellensburg, would start by banning the provisions for hair- and nail-salon employees and a few other employees and add different industries over time.
The issue, though it may start with the service industry, has particular impact in the technology industry. Non-competes are standard fare across the state’s tech giants.
The WTIA, the Association of Washington Business and a few other business groups testified against the bills in Olympia on Monday, according to Geekwire.
Businesses and the associations that support them say non-competes are essential for keeping companies’ secrets and intellectual property safe from competitors. Supporters of non-compete clauses say Washington’s tech industry is growing well and the current non-compete laws have not caused problems.
But others think they are holding the region back from becoming a bigger technology powerhouse.
Chris DeVore, managing director of Techstars and co-founder of Founders Co-op, has said that he believes non-competes stifle innovation. The logic is that employees are less likely to leave big companies and start their own ventures if they are afraid of getting sued.
Those in favor of banning non-competes have used California’s laws as an example — state public policy there generally does not allow the clauses, and Silicon Valley’s tech industry is booming.
DeVore and WTIA CEO Michael Schutzler, who also has served as executive of several companies around the area, got into the issue on Twitter Tuesday morning in a conversation that involved DeVore’s asking for evidence of the benefits of non-compete policies; Schutzler defended them.
The conversation ended with a healthy amount of snark. Here’s the full back-and-forth: