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Broadcasters Make Sense of NY’s Non-Compete Law

Broadcasters are studying the ramifications of New York’s Broadcast Employees Freedom to Work Act, which Governor David Paterson signed into law earlier this month

The law is a potential plus for reporters and anchors looking to move to new jobs within the nation's top TV market, but a negative for their employers because it makes it easier for their employees to find work elsewhere. The new law “prohibits certain restrictions on broadcast employees that had placed a hardship on professionals in the industry by limiting their flexibility to be hired after leaving a company.”

Furthermore, the law “bans contract provisions that condition employment based on certain types of ‘non-compete’ agreements such as not allowing broadcasters to take another job in a particular region, with a competitor in the same market, or within a certain period of time.” The lawmakers said they “hope to empower broadcasters with greater independence” with the new law by banning “an unfair burden” on station talent forced to wait out a contractual non-compete.

Of course, greater independence for the individuals means less leverage for their employers. In a report, the law firm Proskauer Rose LLP, which represents several media companies, said the Freedom to Work Act “represents a major new statutory development in New York, which traditionally has left the enforceability of non-compete covenants to the courts.” 

Proskauer Rose partner Michael Album suggests both employers and employees educate themselves on the intricacies of the new legislation. “Broadcasters are now subject to statutory provisions that they were not subject to in the past,” he says. “They have to understand the exact nature and scope of the new law.” 

The New York State Broadcasters Association did not return calls for comment at press time.