As we have previously discussed, the National Labor Relations Board’s General Counsel is seeking to invalidate noncompete agreements on the untested legal theory that they violate the National Labor Relations Act. The NLRB recently fired its latest salvo in those efforts to outlaw noncompetes.
On September 1, 2023, the Regional Director of Region 9 of the NLRB, located in Cincinnati, Ohio, issued a Consolidated Complaint against Harper Holdings, LLC d/b/a Juvly Aesthetics (the “Company”), alleging that the Company maintains unlawful noncompete provisions in ...
This year, California was one of many states to enact legislation restricting noncompetes. California has long had the strictest noncompete law, and employee noncompetes are already void under California Business and Professions Code § 16600 (“Section 16600”). On September 1, 2023, California passed new legislation (“SB 699”) that further broadens Section 16600 and provides employees with new legal remedies.
The Current Law
Unless one of the narrow statutory exceptions applies, Section 16600 provides that any contract restraining a person from ...
Epstein Becker Green (EBG) is pleased to announce the launch of our 50-State Noncompete Survey, designed to give employers a desktop guide to the great variety and specificity of noncompete laws across the United States.
EBG's 50-State Noncompete Survey is here to help provide key insights on all of the following areas of noncompete law in your state:
Senators Chris Murphy (D-CT) and Todd Young (R-IN) introduced legislation on February 1, 2023 entitled the Workforce Mobility Act (the “Act”). This bill has been introduced previously, but never made it out of committee.
As we predicted, earlier today, 100 industry organizations submitted a request to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to extend the comment period for its proposed rule banning noncompetes nationwide by an additional 60 days. According to the letter, “[t]he regulated community should be given sufficient time to assess the potential consequences of the rulemaking and develop insightful comments for the Commission to consider.” The letter further states:
As previously reported, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) proposed a rule on January 5, 2023, that would ban noncompetes nationwide. There are serious questions about the FTC’s authority to promulgate such a rule and many practical reasons why such a sweeping approach is unwarranted—in particular at the federal level. The period for submitting formal comments to the proposed rule lasts 60 days following publication of the proposed rule in the Federal Register. The FTC did not file the proposed rule with the Federal Register until January 18, 2023, and it will not be published until January 19, 2023, meaning that the comment period will end on March 20, 2023—not March 10, 2023, as the FTC initially announced. We are told that there will be a formal request to extend the comment period for an additional 60 days, or until May 19, 2023, and that the FTC is likely to grant the request.
It’s no secret that the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) has been struggling financially for well over a decade. One means of combatting its struggles has been to contract with third-party resellers to market USPS services and drive customers to it. Indeed, just one of those resellers, Express One, delivered over $3 billion in revenue to the USPS in the past 12 months alone. Although the annual operating budget of the USPS is $77 billion, $3 billion is still real money—especially since the USPS suffered losses of $6.9 billion last year.
As our antitrust colleagues explained recently, on August 26, 2022, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) published its “Strategic Plan for Fiscal Years 2022–2026,” as required under the GPRA Modernization Act of 2010. Readers of this blog will be interested in two small, but important, items in the Strategic Plan related to noncompete agreements.
First, under “Objective 2.1: Identify, investigate, and take actions against anticompetitive mergers and business practices,” the FTC opines that “[a]nticompetitive mergers and business practices harm Americans through higher prices, lower wages, or reduced quality, choice, and innovation. Enforcement of antitrust laws provides substantial benefits to the public by helping to ensure that markets are open and competitive.” It then identifies certain “[s]trategies” that the FTC intends to pursue over the next five years, including “[i]ncreas[ing] use of provisions to improve worker mobility including restricting the use of non-compete provisions.” It’s unclear exactly what provisions it intends to increase its use of, but nonetheless the FTC will be focused on the issue.
As we have previously reported, the Colorado Assembly passed sweeping changes to the state’s noncompete law that, among other things, (1) set compensation floors for enforcement of both noncompetes ($101,250) and customer non-solicitation agreements ($60,750), which will be adjusted annually based on inflation; (2) require a separate, standalone notice to employees before a new or prospective worker accepts an offer of employment, or at least 14 days before the earlier of: (a) the effective date of the restrictions, or (b) the effective date of any additional compensation or changes in the terms or conditions of employment that provide consideration for the restriction, for existing workers; and (3) prohibit the inclusion of out-of-state choice-of-law and venue provisions. Those amendments take effect today, August 10, 2022.
Compliance with these amendments is even more important due to a prior amendment, effective earlier this year, which provides that violations of Colorado’s noncompete law can subject employers to criminal liability (a Class 2 misdemeanor, which carries possible punishment of 120 days in prison, a $750 fine per violation, or both), as well as hefty fines and possible injunctive relief and attorneys’ fees to aggrieved workers.
As readers of this blog likely know, many states have entirely different statutory schemes for noncompetes in the healthcare industry. Indeed, while 47 states generally permit noncompetes, more than a dozen expressly prohibit or limit them in certain sectors of the healthcare industry – typically for patient-facing clinicians.
For example, in Massachusetts, noncompetes are not permissible in “[a]ny contract or agreement which creates or establishes the terms of a partnership, employment, or any other form of professional relationship with a physician registered to practice medicine . . . , which includes any restriction of the right of such physician to practice medicine in any geographic area for any period of time after the termination of such partnership, employment or professional relationship.” The same restriction applies to Massachusetts nurses, psychologists, and social workers.
Despite the Supreme Court’s recent 6-3 ruling in West Virginia v. EPA that regulatory agencies must have “clear congressional authorization” to make rules pertaining to “major questions” that are of “great political significance” and would affect “a significant portion of the American economy,” and the import of that ruling to the area of noncompete regulation (which we addressed in detail in Law360), the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) announced yesterday that they are teaming up to address certain issues affecting the labor market, including the regulation of noncompetes.
In a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) issued on July 19, 2022, the FTC and NRLB shared their shared view that:
Exchange Act Rule 21F-17, adopted in 2011 under the auspices of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010, prohibits any person from taking any action to impede an individual from communicating directly with the SEC, including by “enforcing, or threatening to enforce, a confidentiality agreement . . . .” The SEC has prioritized enforcing this rule expansively, by requiring employers to provide SEC-specific carveouts to policies and agreements governing confidentiality. According to an Order issued last week against The Brink’s Company ( “Brink’s” or “Brinks”), the SEC seems to suggest that employers must provide a specific carveout in restrictive covenant agreements permitting employees and former employees to report information to the SEC in addition to the statutory disclosure provided for in the federal Defend Trade Secrets Act (DTSA).
As readers of this blog are aware, many states now require employers to provide prospective employees with copies of any noncompetes (and, in some cases, other restrictive covenants) they will be required to sign as a condition of employment. For example, Massachusetts requires that noncompetes be provided at the earlier of when an offer is made or 10 business days before the first day of employment; in Illinois it is 14 calendar days before employment begins; in Maine it is three days; in New Hampshire and Washington a noncompete must simply be provided before an employee’s acceptance of an offer; in Oregon and Rhode Island it is two weeks before employment begins; and beginning August 9, 2022, Colorado will require not only that both noncompete and non-solicitation covenants be provided to employees at least 14 days before the effective date of employment, but a separate standalone notice must be provided as well.
You don’t hear much positive news these days about noncompete agreements. Instead, most national media outlets take cases of extreme abuse and frame them as the norm instead of the outliers that they are. And the national media also often portrays employers in a negative light for allegedly forcing noncompetes on employees who purportedly have no choice in the matter and receive no benefit from the transaction. The data does not bear this out—indeed, according to reputable studies, workers who are presented with noncompetes before accepting jobs receive higher wages and more training, and are more satisfied in their jobs than those who are not bound by noncompetes—but that is beside the point when there is an attention-grabbing story to be written.
Microsoft Corp. announced last week that it is immediately eliminating noncompetes for all employees below the partner and executive levels, including doing away with all existing noncompetes for covered employees. In a June 8, 2022 blog post, Microsoft’s Deputy General Counsel and Vice President of Human Resources said the following:
Empowering employee mobility: Microsoft believes that all employees should be empowered to work at a company they love and in a role where they thrive. We work hard to retain our world-class talent by making people the priority, and creating a culture that attracts and inspires world-class talent to unlock innovation aligned to our mission. While our existing employee agreements have noncompete obligations, we do not endorse the use of such provisions as a retention tool. We have heard concerns that the noncompetition clauses in some U.S. employee agreements, even when rarely and reasonably enforced, feel at odds with our talent principles. With these concerns in mind, we are announcing that we are removing noncompetition clauses from our U.S. employee agreements, and will not enforce existing noncompetition clauses in the U.S., with the exception of Microsoft’s most senior leadership (Partners and Executives), effective today. In practice, what this means is those U.S. employees will not be restricted by a noncompete clause in seeking employment with another company who may be considered a Microsoft competitor. All employees remain accountable to our standards of business conduct and other obligations to protect Microsoft’s confidential information. (Emphasis added).
According to a report in the Wall Street Journal last week, the Federal Trade Commission is considering new regulations to prohibit the use of noncompetes and to target their use in individual cases through enforcement actions. Although President Biden issued a vague Executive Order early in his administration that “encourage[d]” the FTC to “consider” exercising its statutory rulemaking authority “to curtail the unfair use of non-compete clauses and other clauses or agreements that may unfairly limit worker mobility,” no concrete action has been taken to date. That is not entirely surprising given that, until last month, the Commission was split 2-2 along partisan lines. What has since changed that may now make federal noncompete regulation a real possibility, however, is the appointment last month of Alvaro Bedoya to the FTC, giving the Democrats a 3-2 majority.
Lina Khan, the 33-year-old Biden-appointed Chair of the FTC, told the Wall Street Journal, “We feel an enormous amount of urgency given how much harm is happening against the workers. This is the type of practice that falls squarely in our wheelhouse.” Other Commissioners disagree. Commissioner Noah Phillips has said the agency doesn’t have legal authority to impose such rules, and Commissioner Christine Wilson said last year it was “premature” to pass a federal rule because many states had taken their own actions to address noncompetes. Indeed, noncompete regulation has been the province of the states for over 200 years.
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