Journal Article

Thinking and Doing—the regulation of workers' human capital in the United States

Katherine V. W. Stone

in Socio-Economic Review

Published on behalf of Society for the Advancement of Socio-Economics

Volume 4, issue 1, pages 121-138
Published in print January 2006 | ISSN: 1475-1461
Published online October 2005 | e-ISSN: 1475-147X | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/SER/mwj035
Thinking and Doing—the regulation of workers' human capital in the United States

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  • Moral Philosophy
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Today workers change jobs more frequently than in the past and worker knowledge about production has become a valuable commodity. As a result, the issue of who owns workers' knowledge has become highly contentious. In the United States, there has been an explosion of litigation and disputes over trade secrets and post-employment covenants. This article examines current legal trends concerning the issue of who owns the workers' human capital from the perspective of broader changes in the nature of the employment relationship. It describes the new employment relationship as one in which employers implicitly promise to provide employees with training, human capital development, networking opportunities, employability, and other means to succeed in a boundaryless labour market. The author argues that current trends by which courts liberally enforce post-termination restraints and grant employers broad trade secret protection are out of step with the terms of the new employment relationship.

Keywords: human capital; new employment relationship; restrictive covenants; trade secrets; post-employment restraints; JEL classification: J24, J41

Journal Article.  7298 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy ; Corporate Social Responsibility ; Welfare Economics ; Political Economy ; Economic Sociology

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