Seattle area coffee chain barred former baristas from working at nearby cafes

Oct 31, 2019, 5:34 AM | Updated: 5:41 pm

Non-compete agreements are often associated with media or law firm jobs, not necessarily with Seattle coffee shops. So it may be surprising to hear that Seattle area coffee chain Mercurys Coffee was making employees sign them, barring them for 18 months from working at any other coffee shop within a 10-mile radius of one of their locations.

It didn’t go over well with employees to say the least, and this week Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced that Mercurys Coffee will void all of its existing non-compete agreements, arguing that the practice limited employment options and mobility for workers and unfairly limited competition for labor, in violation of the Washington Consumer Protection Act.

The company will also have to pay $50,000 to reimburse the Attorney General’s Office for its attorneys fees and costs associated with the investigation. No free coffee was part of the deal.

Washington’s best grocery bagger headed to national competition

Not only did Mercurys Coffee simply require employees to sign non-compete agreements, they even went so far as to file several lawsuits against workers who found employment at other coffee shops. It’s fair to assume that the employees probably didn’t bother to ask for recommendation letters.

In particular, Mercurys filed suit against a former barista who had made $17 per hour and left for a competitor about one and a half miles away. They also threatened to sue another former employee who left to work at a nearby Starbucks.

E-scooters could help commuters access thousands of jobs across Seattle

“Non-compete agreements targeting low-wage, hourly employees give companies an unfair advantage at the expense of workers,” Ferguson said. “Any company that makes their employees sign unfair contracts should expect to hear from my office. A coffee shop barista, or any low-wage worker for that matter, should not fear retaliation just for moving to another job that’s better for them.”

Mercurys Coffee has about 120 employees in eight locations across King County, who are now probably much less hesitant about looking for another job.

Local News

MyNorthwest Staff

Amazon hiring for more than 500 positions at new sort center in Fife

A new Amazon facility in Fife, Washington, that's set to open later this month has starting hiring for more than 500 positions.
12 hours ago
Nicole Jennings

Rural Eastern Washington hospitals say no big losses in staffing post-vaccine mandate

Some of the rural Eastern Washington hospitals that were expected to have big losses after the vaccine mandate say things are going well.
12 hours ago
Climate Pledge Arena...
Associated Press

Climate Pledge Arena ready to get Kraken for hockey debut

The first event ever inside Climate Pledge Arena — whether it will be considered the official first event or not — was far from a soft opening.
1 day ago
Some of the located containers, captured by the US Coast Guard Air Station Port Angeles helicopter....
KIRO 7 News Staff

Approximately 40 shipping containers adrift off Washington coast

Approximately 40 shipping containers were lost off a ship 43 miles west of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, according to the United States Coast Guard.
1 day ago
Kathryn Altena

Gov. Inslee, Washington groups prepare to welcome Afghan refugees

In the coming months, 1,400 Afghan refugees are expected to pass through the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport upon their arrival in Washington.
1 day ago
King County Councilmember Rod Dembowski...
Nick Bowman

King County Councilmember accused of history of ‘verbally abusive’ behavior toward female staff

King County Councilmember Rod Dembowski is facing accusations detailing a history of verbally abusive behavior toward female staff members.
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles


Medicare open enrollment for 2022 starts Oct. 15 and SHIBA can help!

Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner SPONSORED — Medicare’s Open Enrollment Period, also called the Annual Election Period, is Oct. 15 to Dec. 7. During this time, people enrolled in Medicare can: Switch from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan and vice versa. Join, drop or switch a Part D prescription drug plan, […]

How to Have a Stress-Free Real Estate Experience

The real estate industry has adapted and sellers are taking full advantage of new real estate models. One of which is Every Door Real Estate.
IQ Air

How Poor Air Quality Is Affecting Our Future Athletes

You cannot control your child’s breathing environment 100% of the time, but you can make a huge impact.
Swedish Health Services

Special Coverage: National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month

There are a wide variety of treatment options available for men with prostate cancer. The most technologically advanced treatment option in the Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform.
Marysville Police Department

Police Opportunities in a Growing, Supportive Washington Community

Marysville PD is looking for both lateral and entry level officers. Begin or continue your career in law enforcement for a growing, supportive community.

Small, Minority-Owned Businesses in King County and Pierce County Can Now Apply For $10,000 Relief Grants Through Comcast RISE

Businesses in King County and Pierce County can apply beginning on October 1, 2021, at www.ComcastRISE.com for a chance to receive a $10,000 relief grant.
Seattle area coffee chain barred former baristas from working at nearby cafes