Destroy The Non-Compete
*Note to salon owners at the end
One of the biggest evils in the beauty industry is the non-compete contracts we sign before we ever even start the job.
Most of us who do not freelance or booth rent have to sign them. We get so excited to work with a new team that of course nothing will go wrong and we'll be there forever so yes, we sign them.
But things change:
- Sometimes we want to start our own business
- Sometimes we want to leave a poor working environment
- Sometimes it's just time to leave
But we can't
Then. The non-compete clause gets pulled from the new hire paperwork and we are restricted in the manner in which we can earn an income.
Here is the truth about Non-competes.
Not the hairdresser truth, when your soon to be co-workers and clients and family tell you 'oh they won't sue.'
Friends may tell you to ignore it.
If you want to leave and you want out of your non-compete, there is a communication process you should go through with the salon so there is documentation of your attempt at being able to earn an income should you wind up in court. The latter looks along the lines of writing a letter to the salon owner/HR asking to be let out of your non-compete. First, get a copy of the document. By law, they are required to give it to you. Did you and a member of the salon staff sign it? If not, you're off the hook. If you did, try to understand what the contract is restricting (what the salon is trying to protect) and in your letter be able to place value on those topics.
The contract typically gives all the power to the salon. There is rarely mention of the salon's responsibilities in exchange for your talents, such as maintaining facilities, providing inventory, what you can expect from leadership positions...so that if they are not providing these things, it is a window for the non-compete to be dissolved. If they do spell out their position in your contract then hallelujah! you can point out where they failed and include it in your letter. Pro tip: come to the interview with your own contract outlining your expectations for what the salon will provide (working hot water heater, chairs that aren't broken) and make them sign it. This could be your safety net in the instance that you do want to leave and their non-compete leaves them with all the power.
So you sent a letter and they still said no.
The truth is, if you break a non-compete contract, there is a high likelihood that you will go through a legal process. It's scary and intimidating, because how many times have we really been to court? (hopefully not many) The process is also very...procedural. It will take time and attention and organization. A judge does not care how awful your salon was, a judge cares that you broke the contract. It is your position in this process to show how the non-compete is preventing you from procuring gainful employment. Because while a judge won't care if the salon owner never fixed the styling chairs, they will care that you could be unemployed and/or prevented from earning the income you are used to.
Here is the truth, no matter what your friends may tell you.
Yes. You can absolutely break a non-compete clause. 'No indirectly soliciting' can be interpreted by salons as no social media postings on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, anything. A court might not agree but you may need a lawyer to argue your stance. If you see that phrase in an employment contract, turn around and walk out the door. 'As the crow flies' non-compete radius has been struck down numerous times in previous rulings because as we all know, humans don't fly. We drive. Down side: it has also been upheld numerous times. Your best practice is to know the contract laws of your state because here's a fun fact: each state is different. Good luck enforcing a non-compete in California, I don't think they even make it to court there.
If hairdressers had a union to represent them, 90% of non-competes would be obliterated.
Reality: Yes, you can break a non-compete. You will need a lawyer. Your salon probably has one on retainer. You will need to find a good contract law attorney with experience in non-competes. You will be paying a lot of money. Typically a lawyer will listen to your problem and if they agree to represent you, you will give them a retainer. This is like paying up front. Sometimes it is hundreds. Sometimes it's thousands.
That's the reality. Yes, hairdressers can absolutely get out on non-competes. Better hope you saved about $7K for the judicial process. I acknowledge the majority of us don't have access to that kind of money. Money that you won't see again because this isn't a lawsuit where you could win money at the end, all you win is the right to work. And Pride Don't Pay The Bills. How much is that moral victory worth?
In the long run, the truth about Non Competes is that you should refuse to sign them.
Old-fashioned salons are losing staff left and right to Loft spaces. Owners who experienced this might scoff to make themselves feel better but it is happening. There are so many stylists looking to be their own boss in a loft space that centrally located lofts have wait lists years long.
The only traditional salons worth working for are the ones that respect their employee's rights, as well as the inevitable truth that we all grow and change. Start your career on the right foot: come to the interview with your own contract outlining your expectations for what the salon will provide (working hot water heater, chairs that aren't broken, being paid on time, transparency when changing business practices) and make them sign it. Write in that if you document these things happening during your employment, their non-compete is null and void. This could be your safety net in the instance that you do want to leave and their exit contract leaves them with all the power.
If they refuse to sign a piece of paper that holds them accountable for doing their job, just like they are expecting you to sign away your future career should you choose to move on, walk away.
Note from the co-founder:
If you are a salon owner, you have a non-compete contract, and you have made it to the end of this article... congratulations! We are happy that you have had a chance to review some of the issues employees feel in these situations. It is important to know that non-competes are a thing of the past. As owners we have to look at why we have a non-compete. Is it because we are afraid our staff will leave us? Are we fearful of losing the money we have put into a business? If we are honest with ourselves we are usually looking to scare our staff into staying. Locking them in so they don't screw us over. This doesn't work, not sometimes, ever. If we truly are treating our staff fairly, providing them with everything we said we would, giving opportunities for growth then they will stay. People leave when their expectations are not met, same reason people are fired. For the stylist that builds a clientele and wants to open their own space, consider investing in them and not suing them. We have helped many owners invest in the staff member that wants to leave and open a salon. The results have been powerful. Not only in terms of relationships but also finances. Investing in stylists that are looking to start their own business is a great way to grow your income even more.
Non-competes keep everyone involved from growing to the next level, even the owner.
This article is here to start a conversation in the industry. To question why we must 'protect' ourselves from the employees. If you have a non-compete I urge you to look it over, read it, put yourself in a staff members position and ask your "would I sign this"? The next generation of business owners will not be using these contracts, people are already starting to choose to work in spaces where they are not required to sign their careers away by the years or the radius. The non-compete is truly what this paperwork is. Salon owners who have them will not longer be able to compete with salon owners that do not. Take a breathe, take a look, make some change.
- Caeleb Bosscher