We reported yesterday that the attorneys generals of ten states are investigating several fast food franchisors for their use of so-called “no poach” provisions in their franchise agreements.  Well, less than twenty-four hours later, the New York Times has reported that seven fast food franchisors (mostly different ones than those who received the information demands discussed yesterday) entered into agreements with the Washington State Attorney General’s Office to remove such clauses from their franchise agreements.  According to the New York Times:

Many types of franchise businesses impose the clauses, but they may be most prevalent in the restaurant industry. The fast-food sector, in particular, relies overwhelmingly on independently owned and operated franchise stores.

Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson is quoted in the article as stating that his “goal is to eliminate these provisions in all fast-food contracts” in Washington State.  We will keep you posted on further developments.

The Attorneys General of ten states are investigating fast food franchisors for their alleged use of “no poach” provisions in their franchise agreements, according to a press release by the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office, and as reported by NPR.  In a July 9, 2018 letter, the Attorneys General for New Jersey, Massachusetts, California, Washington, D.C., Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island requested information from eight fast food companies about their alleged use of such provisions.  The letter states that the Attorneys General “have learned that certain franchise agreements used in our States and the District of Columbia . . . may contain provisions that impact some employees’ ability to obtain higher paying or more attractive positions with a different franchisee.”  In other words, the agreements purportedly prohibit one franchisee of a particular brand from hiring employees of another franchisee of the same brand.   Continue Reading State Attorneys General Investigate Fast Food Franchisor “No Poach” Agreements

Marc McGovern, the mayor of Cambridge, Massachusetts (home to many of the Commonwealth’s established and emerging pharmaceutical, biotech, and other life sciences companies), published an op-ed in today’s Boston Globe regarding the noncompete reform movement in Massachusetts (about which we have previously reported).  Unsurprisingly, given that Cambridge has been referred to as the “People’s Republic of Cambridge,” Mayor McGovern comes out strongly in favor of severe restrictions on the use of employee noncompete agreements, stating, among other things, that “noncompetes are unfair to employees.”   Among other things, Mayor McGovern proposes that noncompete agreements be banned outright, or at least severely limited; and if the latter, that employers be required to pay 100% of the employee’s salary during the restricted period (known as “garden leave” pay).  In his words: Continue Reading Mayor of the “People’s Republic of Cambridge” Steps Into The Massachusetts Noncompete Reform Fray

Earlier this month, the Texarkana Court of Appeals took the extraordinary measure of affirming an award of plaintiff attorney’s fees against a defendant for willful and malicious misappropriation of trade secrets in an amount that was ultimately more than 50 times higher than the plaintiff’s actual awarded damages.

Samuel D. Orbison worked for an oil and gas company, Ma-Tex Rope Company, Inc., for five years and signed an employment agreement containing a non-competition agreement, a non-disclosure agreement, and a non-solicitation agreement. During his tenure with Ma-Tex, Orbison became the coordinator of Ma-Tex’s recertification department until he resigned and began working for its competitor, American Pipe Inspections, Inc. (API), in the same position he had filled with Ma-Tex. When Ma-Tex learned that Orbison had begun soliciting recertification work from Ma-Tex’s customers, it sued Orbison and API for, among other claims, breach of contract and misappropriation of trade secrets. Continue Reading In Trade Secret Misappropriation Case, Texas Court of Appeals Affirms Attorney’s Fees Award Approaching $220,000 where Actual Damages Were $4,000

Democratic U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) introduced legislation on April 26, 2018, entitled the Workforce Mobility Act (“WMA”). Although the text of the WMA is not yet available, according to various press releases, it would prohibit the use of covenants not to compete nationwide. In Senator Warren’s press release announcing her co-sponsorship of the bill, Senator Warren stated that “[t]hese clauses reduce worker bargaining power, stifle competition and innovation, and hurt Americans striving for better opportunities. I’m glad to join Senator Murphy to put an end to these anti-worker, anti-market agreements.”  Continue Reading Democratic U.S. Senators Seek to Abolish Non-Compete Agreements

This post originally appeared on the Workplace Class Action blog.

Seyfarth Synopsis: There are currently pending at least four class actions claiming that provisions contained in franchise agreements prohibiting the hiring of employees of other intrabrand franchisees without the consent of their employer violate the antitrust laws.  That being said, in 1993 the Ninth Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of a franchisor in a similar “no-hire” case.  It reasoned that due to the control the franchisor exercised over its franchisees, the franchisor and its franchisees were incapable of conspiring in violation of Section 1 of the Sherman Act. While the so-called “single enterprise” defense is potentially available, franchisors should be cognizant that in developing that defense, they may create evidence or admissions that would support a subsequent claim that the franchisors are joint employers of their franchisees’ employees.  In light of the availability of other defenses, franchisor employers should assess whether the joint employer risk is worth accepting in order to pursue the single enterprise defense.  Continue Reading Franchise “No-Hire” Agreement Class Actions And The Single Enterprise Defense

In Seyfarth’s second installment in its 2018 Trade Secrets Webinar Series, Seyfarth attorneys Scott Humphrey, Erik Weibust, and Marcus Mintz focused on trade secret and client relationship considerations in the banking and financial services industry, with a particular focus on a firm’s relationship with its FINRA members. In addition, the panel covered what to do if trade secrets are improperly removed or disclosed or if a former employee is violating his/her restrictive covenant agreements, how to prosecute a case against a former employee who is a FINRA member, and the impact of the Protocol for Broker Recruiting on trade secrets and client relationships.

As a conclusion to this well-received webinar, we compiled a summary of takeaways:

  • Remember that you can seek court injunctive relief (Temporary Restraining Order and, possibly, Preliminary Injunction) before proceeding in FINRA
  • The definition of a trade secret varies, but you must take adequate steps to protect them as a company, and the information cannot be publicly available or easily discovered, to merit enforcement under the law.
  • Employers can take steps at all stages to protect their confidential information—don’t forget to implement on-boarding and off-boarding procedures, as well as policies and procedures that will be in effect during an employee’s tenure, to protect your information before a problem arises.

Continuing our annual tradition, we present the top developments/headlines for 2017/2018 in trade secret, computer fraud, and non-compete law.

1. Notable Defend Trade Secrets Act Developments

Just two years after its enactment, the Defend Trade Secrets Act (“DTSA”) continues to be one of the most significant and closely followed developments in trade secret law. The statute provides for a federal civil cause of action for trade secret theft, protections for whistleblowers, and new remedies (e.g., ex parte seizure of property), that were not previously available under state trade secret laws. Continue Reading Top Developments/Headlines in Trade Secret, Computer Fraud, and Non-Compete Law in 2017/2018

On Monday, January 29th, Faraday & Future Inc., the electric car manufacturer founded by Chinese billionaire and entrepreneur Jia Yueting, filed a one-count Defend Trade Secrets Act complaint against Evelozcity, Inc., an electric car manufacturer that was recently created by Faraday & Future’s former CFO and CTO.  The case is Faraday & Future Inc. v. Evelozcity Inc., 18-cv-00737, U.S. District Court, Central District of California (Western Division). Continue Reading Start-Up Car Companies Clash in Electrifying Trade Secrets Case

The Protocol for Broker Recruiting (“Protocol”) allows for reciprocal poaching of brokers. More specifically, if a broker leaves one Protocol firm for another Protocol firm, the broker can a) take certain account information (client names, addresses, telephone numbers, e-mail addresses, and account title information) to his/her new firm and b) solicit the clients he/she serviced at his/her former firm. Naturally then, the Protocol’s requirements conflict with confidentiality and restrictive covenant provisions that are commonly found in broker employment agreements and firm policies.  Continue Reading Are Financial Services Firms Reconsidering the Protocol?