Jimmy John's non-compete raising eyebrows

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By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey

PHOENIX -- A gourmet sandwich shop is stirring up controversy for requiring some of its employees to sign a non-compete agreement.

A Jimmy John's employee contract leaked to the Huffington Post shows the chain asking prospective workers to agree not to work at a competitor for two years, if it's within three miles of a Jimmy John's.

"I think that's ridiculous. I think it's really limiting people's job options," said Jimmy John's customer Omar Khiel.

That was the general reaction from the chain's customers who were finding out that Jimmy John's is making it difficult for some of its employees to work at another sub or sandwich shop if they leave the company.

"I understand you need to protect your company but you need to protect the people that you're hiring as well," said Ashley Hutchinson.

In part the agreement says former employees cannot work for any other business in which 10 percent of their sales are subs, hero, deli-style, pita or wrapped sandwiches, if that business is within three miles of a Jimmy John's.

The length of the agreement is two years.

"There's no rational reason to have a non-compete for someone who makes sandwiches," said Valley attorney Dan Barr.

He says if any of the dozens of local Jimmy John's franchises had their employees sign this, they will have a hard time enforcing it here.

"Arizona looks with disfavor at any sort of non-compete that prevents people from working after they've left their job," Barr said.

However, Barr says that does not mean Jimmy John's cannot try and sue an employee if they do violate the clause, and often just the thought of going to court is enough to scare workers.

"It's the threat in itself, even if it's unenforceable, that deters people from doing things," he said.

A spokesperson for Jimmy John's Corporate Office told 3TV they have no comment on this matter.

At this point there are no known instances of Jimmy John's actually suing a former employee over this.