A Wall Street Journal article reports that college interns are increasingly asked to sign agreements that restrict their job choices in the future. “Noncompete, nondisclosure and forced arbitration agreements,” which have been common for senior-level employees, have made their way down the ranks.
Now, interns are asked to sign agreements on their first day with a company, and they don’t always understand what they’re signing. An agreement can prevent a new grad from, for example, accepting an offer with a competitor within a geographic region.
Some agreements are important for companies to protect their intellectual property and preserve confidentiality, but critics say they go overboard. Also, such agreements may not hold up in court, particularly when they affect low-skilled workers.
Bottom line: interns should be careful about what they sign. An agreement may be more of a deterrent and might not inspire legal action, but students shouldn’t have to feel as though their choices are limited right after graduation.
What’s your experience with these employment agreements?
What would you do if asked to sign one?
What should companies do differently to protect themselves?