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> I still can't believe Americans are ok with non compete clauses in their contract if you accept that crap somebody will eventually try to enforce it.

These and other anti-employee clauses (e.g. excessive IP assignment) persist because many programmers simply don't care while others who do care are awful at negotiating compared to their interlocutors who do this for a living. When you try to push back, the standard response you will first hear, an outright lie, is that this is a non-negotiable mandate from their legal counsel and that no-one has ever complained before. If they do budge on their initial terms, they will make it seem like an unprecedented concession that warrants concessions on your end. It's a truly absurd game of back and forth.

When you try to push back, the standard response you will first hear, an outright lie, is that this is a non-negotiable mandate from their legal counsel and that no-one has ever complained before

I'll agree they'll act like it's totally weird you are complaining. Standard salesman techniques.

And companies will usually negotiate these. Usually.

I once had an otherwise nice job offer where the employee agreement contained the following three poison things:

1. you cannot work for any competitors or customers for a year (it was a consultancy, so potentially every employer in the country was off-limits)

2. you assign us your IP rights while you work for us and for a year after you leave us

3. you agree this will not limit your ability to find work.

They totally stuck to their guns. They said legal wouldn't let them change it. I had concerns and they "took the matter seriously" which amounted to telling me, really hard, that these clauses didn't really matter and they wouldn't enforce them, and, y'know, they probably weren't enforceable anyway.

I walked away. Apparently many other people don't because they continue to get new employees. I heard the horror story here on HN a few weeks ago [1] about someone who no one would hire because he signed something with clause 2. I'm more satisfied than ever I was right in walking away.

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7921325

Turnabout is fair play. If they pretend a clause is non-negotiable, call their bluff by asking for fair compensation. "Sure thing! That means I will be off the job market for one year, so I will require an unconditional severance payment of one year's salary. If my employment ends before an agreed-upon period, neither the severance payment or the non-compete will be binding." I'd only consider this kind of hard negotiation for mercenary jobs. If you're joining a normal company as a normal employee and they stonewall you on reasonable concerns, take it as a sign and walk away, as you seem to have done.

If everyone is aware of these clauses, their implications, and their enforceability (in the hypothetical world where computer workers have any sort of group that represents and publicizes their interests as workers), they'll end up priced into wages as long as employers don't collude.

At my first start-up job in San Francisco, I questioned the non-compete and no-moonlighting clauses. My manager looked sheepish and said, "well, we can't really enforce them in California anyway."

My first contract (with Electronic Arts) had a clause something like "We own anything you make in your free time, unless you work in California where we can't legally say that so we only own what you make during work hours or with company equipment"

Since the job was in California, it was a perfectly reasonable agreement for me, but since it was my first job I probably would have signed it anyway.

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