The Day I Tore Up My Employee Non-Competes


(By Dick Taylor) Having spent the majority of my working life in the radio industry, I can’t remember a broadcasting company I worked for that didn’t have me sign one of these agreements, and I’m willing to bet that like me, you were never a fan of them.

The Federal Trade Commission just voted in a new rule that would ban employers from imposing non-compete agreements on their employees. All existing non-competes would sunset within six months of the rule’s adoption.

Should radio owner/operators be afraid? No, and let me tell you why:

Back when I was a General Manager in Atlantic City, I had a sales employee walk across the street to my biggest radio competitor. I wanted to pursue this employee in court because I had them under a non-compete contract. However, the new owners of my radio stations said that if a person didn’t want to work for our broadcast company, to just let them leave.

Puzzled by this new operating philosophy, I asked the new owners, if they didn’t intend to enforce employee non-compete agreements, why did they keep them in place when they bought the radio stations from the previous owner. The company president’s response to me was, “Darn if I know.” I then said I was going to tear them all up. He said, “Go ahead.”

I have to tell you, as a young manager, the realization that every employee of my radio stations could walk across the street to my competitors, was scary.

However, something wonderful happened.

People who now worked for me knew they no longer were working under non-competes, and they now worked for me because they wanted to. It also made me realize that I too needed to provide a style of management that made people want to stay with me more than going someplace else. That, I would learn, is the best way to run a business.

Even better, having this type of work environment saw many talented people waiting in line to come work at our stations.

Radio today operates in a marketplace that is over-served, and when that happens the basis of competition changes, opening the door for a new type of competitor. Radio became the force in America it is by being open to risk, new ideas, and innovation. It kept the things that worked and jettisoned the ones that didn’t.

Radio can only win the future by investing in it.

For 27 years, Dick Taylor served at the Market Manager level around the northeast, including for Clear Channel. He is a Life Member of the New Jersey Broadcasters Association and a past “Radio’s Best Managers” honoree by Radio Ink. Read his blog archive here.


  1. Guess what? You can cross out anything you dislike in a Non-Compete, NDA, or any employee contract/agreement. Now whatever you don’t want in these agreements has to be approved by the powers-that-be but when you’re sitting in the HR office about to start the first day of your new employment it’s not likely “they” won’t allow you continue. I’ve done this multiple times myself and was never put in a position to retract Or have a debate with the legal department, HR, or the owner/president.

  2. I had an experience with a “non compete” in my first radio job. A classical station across the street was changing format and offered me a job hosting afternoons. I dutifully told my (then) current employer that I was leaving-and told him the details. The new station had new owners and were hesitant to get involved in a legal battle with a reputed litigator. I was given a slight raise and asked to stay in my old job. The local papers were telling of a local civic group’s displeasure that their classical music station would disappear, and the FCC got involved. The morning of the “new” format arrived and the other staffers were on the air -but the music was still Beethoven and Brahms. I lucked out on that one, thanks to that “non-compete”. I did escape my first owner with a job outside of the non-compete radius, and it was one of the best moves of my life. I do, however agree with the elimination of the non-compete as it should help employers focus on the welfare of the employee rather than “rules”.

  3. You have to wonder how many trade secrets a radio station can have? I mean, all you have to do is listen to them right? I think people tend to over, complicate things to justify their jobs I mean really all you have to do is play the hits be involved in the community and hire good people and treat them right. Hire talent that wants to be better and give them positive guidance. not much of a secret.

  4. For those that are skeptical about the new ruling I have to note. While non-competes are going away, there’s no restriction on forcing employees to sign Non-disclosure agreements protecting trade secrets and other inside information. I think those are the primary explanations for non-competes in the first place. That’s a far sharper tool to protect a company’s legitimate interests, all without the bad side effects Dick mentions.

    My uncle’s career was ended in a downsizing, that combined with a non-compete, end it. He was able to find work in another field, but I have always been saddened by that.


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