Federal Non-Compete Legislation Update

Dawn Mertineit and Robert Milligan authored an article in the Daily Journal, “‘Can’t we just be like California?’ Another solution in search of a problem.” The Seyfarth partners said while historically the issue of noncompete enforcement has been left to the states, the last year has seen the U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission begin to
Continue Reading Dawn Mertineit and Robert Milligan Author an Article in Daily Journal Concerning FTC’s Role in Regulating Employment Non-Competes

On April 13, 2020, the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division and the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Competition released a joint statement and press release regarding “competition in labor markets” and potential agency actions in the face of the COVID-19 crisis. While the agencies’ joint statement appears to be focused on collusion between employers entering into horizontal “no-hire” or “no-poach” agreements, employers in certain industries affected by the crisis should also exercise reasonable care in enforcing vertical restrictive covenants, including non-competition and non-solicitation agreements.
Continue Reading The DOJ and FTC Issue Joint Statement on Competition in Labor Markets in Light of COVID-19: What Effect, If Any, Does This Have on Non-Competes?

Within the last five months, the two executive arms responsible for enforcing antitrust laws—the US Department of Justice (“DOJ”) and the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”)—held public workshops to examine the effect of non-compete clauses in employment contracts on the labor market. The DOJ held its workshop on September 23, 2019, while the FTC recently held its own at the top of the year, on January 9, 2020. The purpose of the FTC workshop was “to examine whether there is a sufficient legal basis and empirical economic support to promulgate a Commission Rule that would restrict the use of non-compete clauses in employer-employee employment contracts.”

Why the FTC now wants to regulate in the employment space is not readily apparent apart from attempting to capitalize on a low-hanging fruit populist issue concerning the overreporting of some companies allegedly using non-competes with low-wage workers.
Continue Reading A Solution in Search of a Problem? FTC Hosts Workshop to Consider Authority to Abolish Non-Competes

As we previously covered, a group of 18 state attorneys general in July filed comments with the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”), asking the FTC to incorporate labor concerns when reviewing corporate mergers and to use its enforcement powers under the Sherman Act to stop the use of non-compete, non-solicit, and no-poach agreements in many situations. Many of those same attorneys general recently sent another letter to the FTC, this time urging it to use its rulemaking authority “to bring an end to the abusive use of non-compete clauses in employment contracts.”

In the most recent letter, the attorneys general endorsed the arguments presented in a March 20, 2019, petition submitted to the FTC by various labor unions, public interest groups, and legal advocates, requesting that the FTC initiate rulemaking to classify abusive worker non-compete clauses as an unfair method of competition and per se illegal under the FTC Act for low wage workers or where the clause is not explicitly negotiated. As they did in their previous letter, the attorneys general contend that non-competes “deprive workers of the right to pursue their ambitions and can lock them into hostile or unsafe working environments.” The attorneys general also argue that the arguments in support of non-compete clauses are unpersuasive and that employers can use other “less draconian” ways to recoup their investment in job training, methods of business, and other intangibles. The attorneys general further argued that non-competes burden businesses seeking to hire new employees, which in turn inhibits innovation and drives up consumer costs by suppressing competition.
Continue Reading State Attorneys General Keep Pressure on FTC to Regulate Non-Competes

A group of 18 state attorneys general (the “AGs”) recently filed comments with the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) in advance of a series of hearings centered on changes to antitrust and consumer protection enforcement in the 21st century. The letter identifies four major areas where recent antitrust activity involving labor issues have occurred: (1) horizontal no-poach agreements between employers; (2) vertical no-poach agreements, particularly franchise agreements; (3) non-compete agreements between employers and employees; and (4) mergers impacting labor markets. Although it may reveal the enforcement priorities of its signatories, the letter’s arguments are mostly unsupported by any case law and in some respects are contrary to the Department of Justice’s positions on the matters.
Continue Reading State Attorneys General Urge FTC to Consider Labor Issues in Antitrust Enforcement

Academics and advocacy groups—including nonprofit organizations and several major labor unions—have filed a petition with the Federal Trade Commission asking the agency to initiate the rulemaking process and ban non-compete agreements. The petitioners advocate regulations “to prohibit employers from presenting a non-compete clause to a worker (regardless of whether the worker is classified as an ‘employee’ or an ‘independent contractor’), conditioning employment or the purchase of a worker’s labor on the worker’s acceptance of a non-compete clause, or enforcing, or threatening to enforce, a non-compete clause against a worker.”
Continue Reading Labor Unions, Advocacy Groups, and Academics Ask Federal Trade Commission to Issue Rules Banning Non-Competes

On March 7, 2019, a group of six United States senators from both sides of the aisle submitted a letter to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) requesting a federal investigation into the use of non-compete agreements on the basis that their widening use in recent years raises concerns about their negative impact on both workers and the national economy.  Specifically, the letter asks the GAO to assess the following three questions:

  1. What is known about the prevalence of non-compete agreements in particular fields, including low-wage occupations?
  2. What is known about the effects of non-compete agreements on the workforce and the economy, including employment, wages and benefits, innovation, and entrepreneurship?
  3. What steps have selected states taken to limit the use of these agreements, and what is known about the effect these actions have had on employees and employers?


Continue Reading U.S. Senators Request Review of Non-Compete Agreements by the Government Accountability Office

Last week, Florida Senator Marco Rubio introduced the “Freedom to Compete Act” (the “Act”) proposing to amend the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) of 1938 to ban non-competes for most non-exempt workers. The Act is broadly drafted to void any agreement that restricts “any work for another employer,” “any work in a specified geographical area,” and “any work for another employer that is similar” to the employee’s prior work. While it purports to void only non-compete agreements, the bill’s use of the sweeping language “any work” could be interpreted to ban not only non-compete agreements, but other post-employment restrictive covenants such as customer and employee non-solicitation agreements. Further, the Act (if passed) would purportedly apply retroactively to agreements entered into before its enactment. 
Continue Reading Proposed Federal Non-Compete Legislation Could Have Unintended Consequences

Cross Posted from Employment Law Lookout.

Seyfarth Synopsis: On October 20, the DOJ and the FTC jointly issued their Antitrust Guidance for HR Professionals, stating that DOJ intends to pursue employers criminally for alleged wage fixing and no-poaching agreements.  

shutterstock_77814403On October 20, 2016, the DOJ and FTC jointly issued their “Antitrust Guidance for Human Resource Professionals.”  The
Continue Reading HR Professionals Take Note: DOJ and FTC Issue Guidance Regarding Antitrust Laws in the Employment Context