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The Utah House unanimously passed a bill that would put limits on businesses that require workers to sign contracts with clauses that keep employees from going to work for competing businesses.

"We should not be treating people like personal property," said Rep. Mike Schultz, R-Hooper. "Let's not let special-interest groups or big business get in the way of letting us create jobs, letting the economy grow … or better yet, [letting employees] go out and start their own businesses."

Schultz said the bill had provisions that would keep workers from taking intellectual property or business secrets with them when they go to a new job. But employees should have the ability to leave and take their skills to another company without facing the threat of a lawsuit.

House Minority Leader Brian King, D-Salt Lake City, supported the bill, but wanted to be clear what the Legislature, which he said worships "at the altar of the free market" is doing.

"What we're doing here [is] we're interfering with the free market with this bill, not in a bad way but in a good way," he said. But the bill does put limits on an employer and employee's ability to contract.

The measure passed the House 72-0 and moves to the Senate for consideration.

— By Robert Gehrke