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Overlooked in May's legislative flurry, a new law bans noncompete agreements in Minnesota starting on July 1. As an attorney who has litigated noncompete disputes for more than 25 years, I will miss the legal work but not mourn the demise of noncompetes.

Businesses in Minnesota have used noncompetes for over 100 years. They became especially popular in the 1990s, however, with med-tech companies such as Medtronic and St. Jude. In the 21st century, noncompetes proliferated even further. Every owner of a company felt they had to use them to protect their business, and once the agreements were put in place businesses felt compelled to enforce them.

Businesses brought on the new ban through their overuse of these restrictions. Legal battles usually involved a request for a court-ordered injunction preventing the former employee from working for a competitor. Twenty years ago it was not uncommon for judges to grant this type of temporary relief. Recently, however, judges started becoming more skeptical of enforcing noncompetes, which have always been "disfavored" under Minnesota law.

As dozens of other states have passed new laws limiting the use of noncompetes, for example only allowing them above a certain income threshold, Minnesota's divided Legislature never took on the topic. The DFL majority went all in, not merely limiting noncompetes but banning them altogether. Only two or three other states (including California and North Dakota) have gone this far. The statute is poorly drafted and repetitive in places, but its meaning is clear: Noncompetes signed after the effective date will not be enforceable. And you cannot get around that by choosing the law of a different state for your contract.

I have both defended clients against noncompetes and enforced them on behalf of clients. But I have seen ambitious individuals made miserable by the fights as they sought only to work in their area of expertise. I have represented physicians but also nannies and hairdressers. Limiting noncompetes is good public policy. Banning them outright may go too far, but this new law should increase employee mobility, raise wages and spur entrepreneurship.

Business owners should understand that nonsolicitation agreements and nondisclosure agreements are still enforceable in Minnesota. You can restrict employees from soliciting your customers after they leave, or from taking or using proprietary information. You just cannot bar an employee from working in any capacity. (A major unanswered question about the new statute is whether an employer can bar an employee from working with a customer, or only from soliciting the customer.) So companies should take solace that there are still protections from unfair competition, and employees should be glad to throw off the shackles of noncompete agreements.

V. John Ella is an attorney in Minneapolis. He used to litigate noncompete agreements. Now he litigates nonsolicitation agreements.