Popular food chain adds new clause to worker contracts

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COLUMBIA - It delivers some of America's most popular sandwiches, and now, Jimmy John's is adding non-compete clauses to workers' contracts.

The non-compete clause says workers who leave their Jimmy John's jobs can't work at other sandwich shops within a three-mile radius for two years.

Former Jimmy John's employee Therron Nunnely said this policy was not in place when he worked there five months ago, but if it were, he would not want to be banned from working at another sandwich shop.

"If the other sub shop paid more, I mean, why not quit and go to the other one?" Nunnely said. "The drivers only made like $6.25, and everyone else made like a [little] over minimum wage, and they don't give you more than 20 hours. I think that's what the tops were, or less than 28 [hours], so they didn't have to pay the insurance." 

While this could hurt minimum wage workers, Columbia Chapter President of the Missouri Restaurant Association David Maxwell said if Jimmy John's is using this new policy, it's not about the money.

"I really don't see it being a money issue," Maxwell said. "It's totally a recipe issue. You've got to protect what the customers like about you, and if that's your recipe, you need to protect it."

He said a sub shop's identity is its recipes, so the policy would probably work as a branding tactic. 

"I think it's fair. I don't think it's totally necessary," Maxwell said. "You work really hard to come up with your identity, whether it's a sandwich or a car, anything else, a news media... so yeah, it's fair." 

When KOMU 8 News called each shop in Columbia, two told us they did have to sign contracts with this clause, but the others would not comment. One shop in Jefferson City also said it has this policy.

Mike Monahan owns every Jimmy John's in Columbia and said he has never enforced a non-compete clause.

Monahan and his wife opened their first Jimmy John's franchise in Columbia in 2000.

Corporate officials at Jimmy John's declined to comment.