Cross-posted from Workplace Law & Strategy blog.

When an ex-employee goes to a competitor or starts poaching clients or staff, employers often look to a restraint of trade clause to protect key business assets such as client relationships or company confidential information.

Often a quick decision needs to be made: apply to the Court to stop the ex-employee, or wait and sue for breach of contract damages at some later time. Wrapped up in this decision is the important issue of prospects of success—an employer will want to know there is a good chance of a successful outcome.
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Over the course of the past several years, several states have banned or severely restricted the ability of businesses to bind low-wage workers to post-employment restrictive covenants. Since 2007, Oregon has banned non-compete agreements for all employees except those who are exempt (as defined by the state’s overtime payment statute) and whose annualized compensation at the time of termination exceeds the median income of a four-person family, as determined by the United States Census Bureau for the most recent year available at the time of the employee’s termination ($56,119 per year based on most currently-available data). In 2016, Illinois passed a statute banning non-compete agreements with low-wage workers (defined in Illinois to be non-governmental workers making less than the greater of the prevailing federal, state, or local minimum wage or $13 per hour). In 2018, contained within a wider-ranging non-compete bill, Massachusetts also banned employers from entering into non-compete agreements with non-exempt employees, as those employees classification is defined by the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), as well  as employees under age 18, paid or unpaid student interns, or other short-term student employees who are enrolled in school.

While such legislation trickled out over the last several years, 2019 has seen five additional states enact prohibitions on utilizing non-compete agreements for certain low-wage employees, with at least seven other states and the District of Columbia considering similar non-compete legislation.


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What You Need to Know about Protecting Company Assets in the Age of Employee Mobility and Digital Theft

Thursday, November 14, 2019
8:00 a.m. – 8:30 a.m. Central Time: Breakfast & Registration
8:30 a.m. – 10:00 a.m. Central Time: Program

Seyfarth Shaw LLP
233 South Wacker Drive, Suite 8000
Chicago, IL 60606

There is no

Seyfarth Partner and Trade Secrets, Computer Fraud & Non-Competes Practice Group Co-Chair Katherine Perrelli was recently named a vice-chair of the Trade Secrets and Interferences with Contracts Committee of the American Bar Association Intellectual Property Section.

The Trade Secrets and Interferences with Contracts Committee is focused on issues arising under federal, state, and foreign laws

Seyfarth Partner Erik Weibust was recently named as a co-chair of the Restrictive Covenants/Tortious Interference Subcommittee of the American Bar Association Litigation Section.

The Restrictive Covenants/Tortious Interference Subcommittee is part of the Business Torts & Unfair Competition Committee. The Committee and Subcommittee focus on keeping business litigators fully informed on issues and trends regarding fiduciary

Seyfarth Synopsis: On Friday, August 9, 2019, Governor J. B. Pritzker signed a wide-ranging bill that, among other things, encompasses the Workplace Transparency Act. The Act, which will impact nearly every employer in Illinois: significantly restricts inclusion of non-disclosure and non-disparagement provisions in employment agreements, separation agreements, and settlement agreements; limits an employer’s ability to “unilaterally” require certain terms (including mandatory arbitration) as a condition of employment; creates annual training and disclosure requirements to the Illinois Department of Human Rights, and establishes new civil penalties for non-compliance. The new law includes additional requirements specific to restaurants, bars, hotels, and casinos. Those requirements take effect immediately, whereas the broader employment law changes take effect January 1, 2020.
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Joining the wave of jurisdictions limiting the competitive restraints employers may place on low-wage employees is Maryland.  Maryland’s Noncompete and Conflict of Interest Clauses Act (the “Act”)―which passed without Governor Larry Hogan’s signature on May 28, 2019―will take effect on October 1, 2019. Recognizing that certain non-compete and conflict-of-interest clauses violate Maryland’s public policy and are therefore null and void, the Act prohibits employers from mandating that certain employees not join another employer or become self-employed in a same or similar business area. The covered employees are those who earn equal to or less than $15 per hour or $31,200 annually. This prohibition applies even if the parties entered into the employment agreement outside of Maryland and is not restricted to only post-employment actions.  That is, a qualified employee may work for a competitor even during the term of employment.
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In Seyfarth’s fourth installment in its 2019 Trade Secrets Webinar Series, Seyfarth attorneys Kristine Argentine, Eric Barton, and Katelyn Miller focused on the enforcement of non-competes and how the difficulty of enforcement of these restrictive covenants vary by state, especially based on recent legislation in various states.

As a conclusion to this webinar, we

On June 28, 2019, Governor Mills signed LD 733, An Act To Promote Keeping Workers in Maine, into law.  The Act places limits on non-compete agreements and bans restrictive employment agreements.

Non-Compete Agreements

The Act defines a non-compete agreement as one restricting the employee “from working in the same or similar profession or in a specified geographic area for a certain period of time following termination of employment.”
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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.
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