Leaked Contract: Amazon Makes Warehouse Workers Sign 18-Month Non-Compete Agreements

Amazon warehouses, even the ones powered by amazing shelf robots, depend mostly on human labor to get the stuff off the shelves and into boxes. The job doesn’t pay very much and is grueling, and also has high turnover. Oh, and employees are asked to sign 18-month non-compete contracts that ban them from working for any competitor of Amazon.

We thought that the non-compete contract that Jimmy John’s made its employees sign was bad, and that only limited ex-workers from working in any place that makes more than 10% of its money from selling “submarine, hero-type, deli-style, pita and/or wrapped or rolled sandwiches.” Yet The Verge got hold of a seasonal worker’s contract and made it public, and it has a surprising requirement. Amazon bars their former employees from working for companies with products or services that compete with Amazon’s. Some workers have reported signing a similar agreement after a layoff in order to receive their severance pay. Amazon is a store that sells pretty much everything, so how does that work out for employees in their warehouses?

One woman who works at one of Amazon’s warehouses during the holiday season takes the agreement seriously, saying that she would ask permission before seeking a job with a retailer like Walmart or Sam’s Club. Is she being overly scrupulous? She hasn’t tested how strict Amazon is about the policy, since she hasn’t yet been offered a job with one of their competitors.

The Verge notes that they asked Amazon which jobs at which companies their former warehouse workers might not be allowed to take under the non-compete agreement. Amazon hadn’t responded as of earlier today.

During employment and for 18 months after the Separation Date, Employee will not, directly or indirectly, whether on Employee’s own behalf or on behalf of any other entity (for example, as an employee, agent, partner, or consultant), engage in or support the development, manufacture, marketing, or sale of any product or service that competes or is intended to compete with any product or service sold, offered, or otherwise provided by Amazon (or intended to be sold, offered, or otherwise provided by Amazon in the future) that Employee worked on or supported, or about which Employee obtained or received Confidential Information.

Non-compete clauses make sense for employees who have sensitive knowledge about the back-end operations of Amazon. We can even see how competitors might want to recruit the people who design and run Amazon’s warehouses. Amazon warehouses are often in remote areas without many employment options, which makes non-compete agreements for jobs that pay maybe $12 per hour an even worse idea.

Exclusive: Amazon makes even temporary warehouse workers sign 18-month non-competes [The Verge]