If most voters are like me, they don’t pay much attention to constitutional amendments until they see them on their ballot when they vote. I am learning that is really a bad idea because of how those amendments are characterized. Columbus attorney and former state legislator Milton Jones explains, using Amendment 1 as an example.
By Milton Jones
I recommend and ask that you vote NO on the proposed Constitutional Amendment One that is on the ballot for the General Election November 2.
Georgia has a sordid track record of misleading voters about the real effect of constitutional amendments. This is another bad example.
This particular amendment relates to “covenants not to compete” often put in to employment contracts. The amendment is pushed by big business interests. It is contrary to the best interests of employees – particularly skilled employees such as engineers, computer specialists, medical employees, and salespeople.
The existing Georgia law is not “broke”; there is nothing that needs “fixing”. This proposed amendment seriously over-reaches, in favor of large employers.
Here’s what you will see on your ballot: “Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to make Georgia more economically competitive by authorizing legislation to uphold reasonable competitive agreements?” That is deliberately misleading. At the very least, reasonable folks may totally disagree about whether this amendment makes Georgia “more economically competitive or not. I know of no evidence that it would do so.
It appears to me the result of this amendment, if passed, will be to make Georgia less competitive, not more, because it will shackle employees to businesses, and strangle the present rights of employees to go out and work for competitors or start new competing businesses. Voters who are employees of any kind, be they doctors, news people, engineers, mechanics or salespeople should rise up and vote “No” to this radical change to our state constitution.
Employers can already impose these non-compete agreements, as long as the restrictions on a former employer are reasonable and limited. If this proposal passes, however, judges will be allowed to edit non-compete contracts that contain overreaching restrictions. This innocent-sounding change totally tilts the table on non-competes to favor employers-encouraging them to write their agreements overly broadly. If the new law passes, the worst that can happen to an employer who purposefully puts overly broad restrictions in his non-compete agreements is that, at some distant time in the future, a judge may make the employer use more reasonable restrictions. In the meantime, employers can make employees sign these overly broad non-compete agreements or get fired, and then fire them anyway. Employees, who rarely have the money, would then have to hire lawyers to fight the agreement. Most can’t afford that.
Result: doctors, engineers, sales persons and others typically targeted with non-competes become wrongly locked into jobs, and our courts become activist, contract re-writing scribes.
Voters should vote “No” to Amendment One. Vote “No” to proposals that make it harder to find jobs. Vote “No” to deceptively worded ballot proposals. Vote to make Georgia more competitive and defeat this gouging by big business.