Within the last year, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) brought its first indictments alleging criminal wage-fixing conspiracies and criminal no-poach conspiracies among competing employers.  In December 2020, DOJ indicted the president of a staffing company for violating Section 1 of the Sherman Act by allegedly conspiring with competitors to fix wages paid to physical therapists.  A month later, DOJ indicted a corporation for violating the Section 1 of the Sherman Act because it allegedly entered into “naked no-poach agreements,” pursuant to which it agreed not to solicit senior employees of two competitors   In March 2021, DOJ filed its second wage-fixing indictment, which also alleged a conspiracy to allocate workers.  As reported here and here, these indictments were the culmination of the DOJ’s Policy, contained in its 2016 Antitrust Guidance for Human Resource Professionals (“Antitrust Guidance”) to bring criminal charges against employers who conspired to suppress wages, either through wage-fixing agreements or naked no-poach agreements.

Continue Reading DOJ’s First Wage Fixing Indictment Survives a Motion to Dismiss Because Court Finds Wage-Fixing Agreements Are Illegal <em>Per Se</em>

Thomson Reuters Practical Law has released the 2021 update to “Garden Leave Provisions in Employment Agreements,” co-authored by our colleagues Peter A. Steinmeyer and Lauri F. Rasnick.

This Practice Note discusses garden leave provisions in employment agreements as an alternative or a companion to traditional employee non-compete agreements. It addresses the differences between garden leave and non-compete provisions, the benefits and drawbacks of garden leave, and drafting considerations for employers that want to use garden leave provisions. This Note applies to private employers and is jurisdiction neutral.

Continue Reading Update on Garden Leave Provisions in Employment Agreements

Thomson Reuters Practical Law has released the 2021 update to “Non-Compete Laws: Massachusetts,” a Q&A guide to non-compete agreements between employers and employees for private employers in Massachusetts, authored by our colleague David J. Clark.

Following is an excerpt:

This Q&A addresses enforcement and drafting considerations for restrictive covenants such as post-employment covenants not to compete and non-solicitation of customers and employees. Federal, local, or municipal law may impose additional or different requirements.

Download the full Q&A in PDF format.

Thomson Reuters Practical Law has released the 2021 update to “Non-Compete Laws: Illinois,” a Q&A guide to non-compete agreements between employers and employees, co-authored by our colleagues Peter A. Steinmeyer and David J. Clark.

Following is an excerpt:

This Q&A addresses enforcement and drafting considerations for restrictive covenants such as post-employment covenants not to compete and non-solicitation of customers and employees. Federal, local, or municipal law may impose additional or different requirements.

Download the full Q&A in PDF format.

Effective January 1, 2022, the earning thresholds for employees and independent contractors in Washington who properly may be subject to noncompetition covenants will increase. The new adjusted earning threshold for employees will be $107,301.04 and the new adjusted earning threshold for independent contractors will be $268,252.59. Earnings is defined as the compensation reflected on box one of the form W-2 for employees or the payments reported on a form 1099 for independent contractors. Therefore, workers who earn amounts less than the new thresholds may not be subject to noncompetition covenants.

Continue Reading Washington State Raises Earning Thresholds for Workers Subject to Noncompetition Covenants

Our colleagues Nathaniel Glasser, Brian Steinbach, Maxine Adams, and Eric Emanuelson Jr. of Epstein Becker Green have a new post on Workforce Bulletin that will be of interest to our readers: “Washington, D.C. Postpones Ban on Non-Competes.”

The following is an excerpt:

Washington, D.C. employers have more time to get their non-compete ducks in a row. On August 23, 2021, Mayor Bowser signed the Fiscal Year 2022 Budget Support Act of 2021 (B24-0373) (the “Support Act”), which includes various statutory changes necessary to implement the D.C. FY 2022 budget. As expected, the Support Act postpones the applicability date of the Ban on Non-Compete Agreements Amendment Act of 2020 (the “Non-Compete Act”) until April 1, 2022. The postponement not only provides more time for employers to prepare for the non-compete ban—it also permits the D.C. Council to continue its consideration of additional amendments to the Non-Compete Act. For a summary of those other possible changes, please see our recent post here.

Click here to read the full post and more on Workforce Bulletin.

As featured in #WorkforceWednesday:  This week, we look at the restriction and legislation of non-compete agreements.

The Future of Non-Compete Agreements

The restriction and legislation of non-compete agreements is gaining traction around the country, with states and the federal government passing or proposing new restrictions on the clauses. In July, President Biden signed an executive order that discussed the regulation of non-compete agreements, which in the past has only been the province of the states. Attorneys Pete Steinmeyer and Brian Spang discuss how the executive order impacts employers, changes to expect, and how to best prepare for the future.

More on Biden’s Executive Order on Non-Compete Agreements

On July 9, 2021, President Biden signed the Executive Order on Promoting Competition in the American Economy, which encourages the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) to employ its statutory rulemaking authority “to curtail the unfair use of non-compete clauses and other clauses or agreements that may unfairly limit worker mobility.” Executive Order, Section 5(g). While the language in this executive order refers to the “unfair” use of non-compete clauses, the Biden administration’s explanatory statement makes clear that “the President encourages the FTC to ban or limit non-compete agreements” altogether. Read more about this executive order.

How Jurisdictions Are Taking Action

Just as employers in the District of Columbia begin navigating the District’s recently enacted non-compete ban, changes to the law are already in the works. As we previously reported, earlier this year, the District enacted the Ban on Non-Compete Agreements Amendment Act of 2020 (D.C. Act 23-563) (“Act”), which prohibits employers from requiring or requesting that an employee sign any agreement containing a non-compete provision. For a more detailed summary and analysis of the Act, please refer to our December 22, 2020, article.

Governor Steve Sisolak recently signed Assembly Bill 47, which amends Nevada’s statute governing non-compete agreements (Nevada Revised Statutes 613.195). Employers should be aware of several changes to the law, which will go into effect on October 1, 2021. For more on this amendment, click here.

See below for the video and podcast links. For Other Highlights and more news, visit http://www.ebglaw.com/eltw221.

Video: YouTubeVimeo.
Podcast: Apple PodcastsGoogle PodcastsOvercastSpotifyStitcher.

On July 9, 2021, President Biden signed the Executive Order on Promoting Competition in the American Economy, which encourages the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) to employ its statutory rulemaking authority “to curtail the unfair use of non-compete clauses and other clauses or agreements that may unfairly limit worker mobility.”  Executive Order, Section 5(g).  While the language in the Executive Order refers to the “unfair” use of non-compete clauses, the Administration’s explanatory statement makes clear that “the President encourages the FTC to ban or limit non-compete agreements” altogether.

A comprehensive rule governing non-competes would be an unprecedented move by the federal government.  Historically, the regulation of non-compete agreements has been left to the states, many of which have recently been busy with legislation of their own.  Recent state legislation has focused, among other issues, on minimum compensation requirements for such agreements to be enforceable against employees, as well as imposing time limitations on such restrictions.  See e.g., recent posts on legislative efforts in New Jersey, Oregon, and Nevada.  The Executive Order does not offer any details on whether these are the types of limitations President Biden would like the FTC to consider.

It seems unlikely that the FTC will issue a complete ban on non-compete agreements.  Any attempt to impose such a ban would be met by strong opposition from the business community.  Non-competes are viewed as vital by many employers seeking to protect their trade secrets and goodwill, among other legitimate business interests.

If the FTC is “encouraged” by President Biden’s Executive Order, the administrative rulemaking process likely will take several months or even years.  So, for now, employers should continue to review their non-compete agreements for compliance with state law, and we will keep you updated on any future developments on the federal side.

In January of this year, our colleagues Janene Marasciullo and David Clark wrote about federal criminal indictments issued for naked wage-fixing and no-poach agreements. They warned that these federal indictments should serve as a cautionary tale for HR and other company executives. The Illinois Attorney General’s office recently reinforced that warning at the state level.

An Illinois court recently denied a motion to dismiss an action by the Illinois Attorney General’s Office–Antitrust Unit against a manufacturing company and three staffing agencies alleging that the company helped the staffing agencies enter into “unlawful agreements…to refuse to solicit or hire each other’s employees and to fix the wages paid to their employees,” which are respectively known as “no-poach” and “wage-fixing” agreements. In particular, the Illinois AG’s complaint alleges that the manufacturing company essentially served as the enforcer of the agencies’ agreement not to poach each other’s temporary employees that they assigned to the company, and that on multiple occasions the staffing agencies complained to the company about each other “cheating” on their no poach agreement—prompting the company to admonish the “cheating” parties. Most interestingly, in an ionic illustration of the axiom that (alleged) crime does not pay, the complaint alleges that the company and the agencies continued to adhere to the terms of their no-poach and wage-fixing agreements despite an inability to attract temporary employees because of the low wages offered due to the alleged wage-fixing.

This state-level case, together with the recent similar federal cases, demonstrates that governments are on the lookout for no-poach agreements.