Following in the footsteps of its neighbors Maine, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire, Rhode Island recently enacted legislation that restricts the use of non-competition agreements with certain types of employees. The Rhode Island Noncompetition Agreement Act, which becomes effective on January 15, 2020, prohibits non-competes without regard to geographic location and duration for the following types of employees:

  • Non-exempt employees under the FLSA;
  • Undergraduate or graduate students participating in an internship or short-term employment;
  • Employees aged 18 or younger; and
  • Low-wage workers (defined as earning 250% or less of the federal poverty level ($31,225 per year under current data).


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This is the third blog by our Trade Secrets , Computer Fraud & Non-Competes team dealing with Washington state’s House Bill 1450, which dramatically alters non-compete agreements within the state. This blog discusses retroactive application of the statute and potential challenges the statute may face as it rolls out in January 2020.

What’s The Law?

As our team previously detailed, Washington state’s new House Bill 1450, which goes into effect January 1, 2020, will eliminate non-compete agreements for employees earning less than $100,000 a year and independent contractors earning less than $250,000 a year. The law requires advance notice of non-competes “no later than the time of acceptance of the offer of employment” and “independent consideration” for non-competes entered into after employment.

In addition, among other changes, the new law:
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Senators Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Todd Young (R-Ind.) have introduced legislation entitled the Workforce Mobility Act (“WMA”). The WMA, like its prior incarnation from last year, seeks to ban non-compete agreements outside of the sale of a business or dissolution of a partnership. The WMA also follows a similar, unsuccessful, attempt by the federal government to limit non-compete agreements on a national scale earlier this year.
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The Council of the District of Columbia is considering a new bill that would ban the use of non-compete restrictions for workers below certain income thresholds—and impose stiff penalties upon employers who include such restrictions in their agreements. Introduced on October 8, 2019, the Ban on Non-Compete Agreements Amendment Act of 2019 (“the Bill”) places D.C. in line to join a growing number of states where non-compete restrictions upon low-income—and, in some cases, relatively high-income—employees are unenforceable.

The Bill would ban the use of non-compete agreements for employees who work in D.C. and who earn up to three times the D.C. minimum wage: $87,654 annually under current law. The Bill would ban such restrictions not just in written agreements, but also in an employer’s “workplace policy” whether in writing (i.e., through an employee handbook) or as a matter of the employer’s practice. Not only would such restrictions be void as a matter of law, but any employer who had such restrictions in place, regardless of whether or not the employer enforced them, would be separately liable to each affected employee in an amount “not less than $500 and not greater than $1,000.” Employers who attempt to enforce non-compete restrictions that fall below the Bill’s income threshold would be liable to affected employees in an amount “not less than $1,500.” Finally, employers who retaliate against employees for either (1) alleged violations of non-compete restrictions that would be unenforceable under the Bill or (2) inquiring about or informing an employer that the employer’s non-compete restrictions may be unenforceable under the Bill, would be liable to each such employee in an amount “not less than $1,000 and not more than $2,000.” Beyond liability to affected employees, the Bill would also empower the Mayor of the District of Columbia to impose fines for violations of the Bill in an amount up to $500, except for retaliatory conduct for which the fine would be at least $1,000.
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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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