The Wyoming Supreme Court recently made an important change to the way restrictive covenant agreements are evaluated by courts in that state.  For many years, courts in Wyoming – as in many other states – have followed the so-called “blue pencil” rule when presented with a non-competition or non-solicitation agreement whose restrictions appear to be unreasonable.

Continue Reading Non-Competes: No More Blue Penciling in Wyoming

Colorado statutory law has traditionally limited enforcement of restrictive covenants.  C.R.S. § 8-2-113, entitled “Unlawful to intimidate worker – agreement not to compete,” provides that all contractual restrictions on a person’s post-employment competitive activity are “void” unless they fit into one of four categories: (1) contracts for the purchase and sale of a business or the assets of a business; (2) contracts for the protection of trade secrets; (3) contracts providing for recovery of expenses of educating and training an employee who have served an employer less than two years; and (4) agreements with executives, management personnel, and their professional staff.  This statute applies not only to non-compete agreements, but also to agreements not to solicit customers or employees.  Most companies trying to defend their restrictive covenants do so under the exception to protect trade secrets or the exception for executives/managers/professional staff.

Continue Reading Small Change in Colorado Law Could Have Large Effect: Criminalizing Restrictive Covenants

New Jersey may be poised to become the latest state to adopt strict procedural and substantive requirements on post-employment non-compete agreements. Assembly Bill No. 1650, if passed, would substantially overhaul New Jersey’s laws regarding post-employment non-compete agreements by, among other things, limiting the types of employees against whom a non-compete agreement is enforceable, as well as limiting the time, scope and geographic region of a non-compete agreement. Assembly Bill No. 1650 still permits post-employment non-compete agreements so long as the agreements are “not broader than necessary to protect the legitimate business interests of the employer.” The bill suggests that
Continue Reading New Jersey Legislature Considering Strict Procedural and Substantive Requirements for Post-Employment Non-Compete Agreements

In Ixchel Pharma, LLC v. Biogen, Inc., 20 Cal. Daily Op. Serv. 7729, __ P.3d __(August 3, 2020), the California Supreme Court made it easier for businesses to enforce restrictive covenants against other businesses.  This holding is a directional shift for the Court which had previously narrowly construed the applicable statute (California Business & Professions Code § 16600) when addressing employee mobility issues.

Ixchel sued Biogen in federal court and alleged Ixchel entered into a Collaboration Agreement with Forward to develop a new drug that contained dimethyl fumarate (DEF), which authorized Forward to terminate the agreement at any
Continue Reading California Supreme Court Applies Rule of Reason Test for “Business Only” Restrictive Covenants

On April 27, 2020, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed a lower court’s decision to grant a preliminary injunction preventing a real estate agent from working for a competitor, because her non-compete, attached to a grant of restrictive stock units, was likely enforceable despite the agent’s forfeiture of the company stock.

The employee in this case worked for Martha Turner Sotheby’s International Realty (“Martha Turner”) in Houston, Texas for over four years. Approximately nine months before her resignation, Martha Turner’s parent company Realogy Holdings Corporation (“Realogy”) notified the employee that she was selected to participate in
Continue Reading 5th Circuit Upholds Non-Compete Provision Despite Former Employee’s Forfeiture of Stock Options, Which Constituted Express Consideration for Restrictive Covenant Agreement

When Massachusetts enacted the Massachusetts Noncompetition Agreement Act (“MNCA”) in mid-2018, some commentators suggested that the statute reflected an anti-employer tilt in public policy. But, we advised  that sophisticated employers advised by knowledgeable counsel could navigate the restrictions set forth in the MNCA.  As reported here, the May 2019 decision from the District of Massachusetts in Nuvasive Inc. v. Day and Richard, 19-cv-10800 (D. Mass. May 29, 2019) (Nuvasive I) supported our initial reading of the MNCA.   The First Circuit’s April 8, 2020 decision in Nuvasive, Inc. v. Day, No. 19-1611 (1st Cir. April 8,
Continue Reading First Circuit: Massachusetts Employee Must Abide by a Restrictive Covenant Governed by a Delaware Choice of Law Clause – the More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same, Part II

A recently passed Florida law, Florida Statutes 542.336 seeks to prevent medical providers from using restrictive covenants to monopolize medical specialties in rural counties.  The law bars the enforcement of “restrictive covenants” against physicians who practice “a medical specialty in a county wherein one entity employs or contracts with, either directly or through related or affiliated entities, all physicians who practice such specialty in that county.”  Once a second provider enters the market for a particular specialty in a county, restrictive covenants remain unenforceable in that county for a period of three years.

Although the purpose of the law is
Continue Reading Florida Law Limits Physician Restrictive Covenants in Rural Counties

Employers sometimes ask whether it matters if they are inconsistent in their enforcement of non-competes.  Typically, the issue is analyzed in terms of whether inconsistent enforcement undercuts the legitimate business interest justifying the restriction.  However, in a pending lawsuit, Miller v. Canadian National Railway Co., the issue is being raised in a different context: whether alleged inconsistent enforcement was racially motivated.  Specifically, the plaintiff in that case alleges that “[b]y enforcing the non-compete against Miller and not against similarly situated white employees, Defendants are interfering with Miller’s future employment relationships because of his race.”

Enforcement of non-competes rarely comes
Continue Reading Alleged Inconsistent Enforcement of Non-Compete Agreements Raised in Discrimination Case

Non-competes are going to be harder to enforce in Washington State.  On May 8, 2019, Governor Jay Inslee signed the “Act Relating to Restraints, Including Noncompetition Covenants, on Persons Engaging in Lawful Professions, Trades or Businesses,” which was passed by both houses of the state legislature in April.

The new law will become effective January 1, 2020, and will render unenforceable non-competition provisions signed by employees earning less than $100,000 and independent contractors earning less than $250,000 annually.  Other important provisions of the law are as follows:

  • Any non-competes exceeding 18 months will be considered unreasonable and unenforceable.
  • The law


Continue Reading Washington State’s New Law Limits Enforceability of Noncompetition Agreements

The Illinois Appellate Court recently declined to adopt a bright line rule regarding the enforceability of five year non-competes or three year non-solicits, and instead directed courts to interpret the reasonableness of any such restrictive covenants on a case-by-case basis.

In Pam’s Acad. of Dance/Forte Arts Ctr. v. Marik, 2018 IL App (3d) 170803, the plaintiff dance company sued a former employee for breaching a non-disclosure agreement and restrictive covenant by allegedly opening a dance studio within 25 miles of plaintiff and soliciting students and teachers by means of an “improperly obtained” customer list. Following a split resolution on
Continue Reading Illinois Appellate Court Declines to Adopt Bright Line Rule That a Five Year Non-Compete Or a Three Year Non-Solicit Are Unenforceable Per Se