On November 1, 2018, the California Court of Appeal, Fourth Appellate District affirmed a trial court’s ruling in AMN Healthcare, Inc. v. Aya Healthcare Services, Inc. et al., No. D071924, 2018 WL 5669154 (Cal. App. 2018), which (1) invalidated the plaintiff’s non-solicitation of employees provision in its Confidentiality and Non-Disclosure Agreements (CNDAs), (2) enjoined AMN from enforcing or attempting to enforce the employee non-solicitation provision in its CNDA with any of its former employees, and (3) awarded $169,000 in reasonable attorneys’ fees to defendants for plaintiff’s use of the provision.

The case is a significant decision which may impact some employers’ continued use of employee non-solicitation provisions with their California employees, at least in certain industries. There is now a split in California authorities and the issue is likely ripe for California Supreme Court guidance.

AMN and Aya are competitors in the business of staffing temporary healthcare professionals, namely providing “travel nurses” to medical care facilities across the country.  When former employees, named as individual defendants in the action and who worked as travel nurse recruiters in California, left AMN for Aya, AMN brought suit against Aya and the former employees, asserting 11 causes of action, including for breach of contract and trade secret misappropriation. Continue Reading California Appellate Panel Affirms Injunction Blocking Use of Employee Non-Solicitation Provision in Dispute Between Travel Nurse Providers

  1. Have trade secret protections. Built into the definition of a trade secret is the requirement to have reasonable secrecy measures. Companies that do not use non-disclosure agreements with their employees can be at a tremendous disadvantage if they decide to litigate against former employees for trade secret misappropriation. Well thought out policies, procedures, and agreements are a must to have defensible trade secret protections.
  2. Be careful who you hire and what baggage they may come with. Sometimes what appears too good to be true is in fact the case. Employers should take particular care when hiring high-level employees or sales employees from direct competitors. They should carefully review any restrictive covenants that the candidate has before extending an offer and ensure that the prospective employee does not bring data from their previous employer.
  3. Don’t be a company that has a “Do what I say not what I do approach.” Many company sabotage their own trade secret protections by requiring lower level and mid-level employees to follow policies, procedures, and agreements but then upper management, including executives, fail to abide by the same policies, procedures, and agreements—this can lead to a confused and disgruntled workforce. A culture of confidentiality, which is a staple of companies that adequately protect trade secrets, starts at the top.
  4. Protect your company trade secrets along the supply chain. In today’s global and mobile economy, companies often hire contractors, consultants, or third parties to assist with products or services. Those same third parties are often provided access to the company’s trade secrets as part of their role in the supply chain. Companies need to ensure that they have had adequate agreements and cybersecurity protections in place with those third parties to ensure that trade secrets are not compromised.
  5. Have coherent computer policies and enforce those policies. Companies conduct business via email and through the transfer and sharing of electronic files. Those files may contain trade secrets and can be easily transferred to a variety of storage devices and accounts, including computers, electronic devices, and the cloud. Companies should provide clear instructions to employees concerning acceptable use, storage, and transfer of company files and should enforce those policies. Some companies use software solutions to monitor compliance and prevent data extraction. Many trade secret cases involve the illicit transfer of company files to personal devices or accounts.

While these tips provide a good overview, it is highly recommended that you consult a Seyfarth attorney familiar with counseling or litigating trade secret matters to develop a robust plan to protect your company’s trade secrets and intellectual property.

On Thursday, October 25, 2018, at 3:30 p.m. Eastern, Seyfarth Partner Dawn Mertineit will be a panelist for Boston Bar Association’s first ever Employment Law Conference. The “Non-Compete Agreements—What You Need to Know About the New Law” presentation is focused on the recently passed Massachusetts non-compete law and how it’s been affecting businesses with Massachusetts employees.

For more information or to register, click here.

On Wednesday, November 28, 2018, at 1:00 to 2:30 p.m. Eastern, Seyfarth Partner and Trade Secrets, Computer Fraud & Non-Compete Practice Group Co-Chair Robert Milligan is presenting a Strafford live webinar. The “Drafting Enforceable Non-compete and Non-Solicitation Agreements: Compliance with New State Statutes and Case Law” webinar panel will discuss recent legislative and case law trends regarding non-compete and non-solicitation agreements, offer best practices for structuring permissible contracts, and explain how to determine whether existing agreements are lawful.

The webinar will focus on the following topics:

  • What are the recent legislative changes affecting restrictive covenants?
  • What are the recent case law decisions affecting non-compete and non-solicitation agreements?
  • How can employers structure restrictive covenants to comply with new laws and decisions?
  • How can employment counsel analyze existing agreements for compliance?

For more information and to register for the webinar, click here.

Readers of our blog will recall that this summer, the Massachusetts legislature passed a non-compete reform bill after nearly a decade of fruitless attempts.  The new law goes into effect today, meaning that any agreements signed today or in the future will need to comply with the new law.

As a brief recap, the key provisions of the new bill are as follows: Continue Reading Today’s the Day: Massachusetts’ New Non-Compete Law Goes into Effect

Seyfarth Shaw Partners Erik Weibust and Robert Fisher recently published a Law360 article about the new Massachusetts Non-Compete Law that goes into effect on October 1, 2018. Weibust and Fisher describe the new rules, the impact of the new provisions, and how businesses can comply. To learn more about this new non-compete law in Massachusetts, check out “Navigating The New Mass. Noncompete Morass” from Law360 here.

 

What Businesses Need to Know About Non-Compete and Trade Secrets Law

Seyfarth’s Trade Secrets, Computer Fraud, and Non-Competes Practice Group is pleased to provide the 2018-2019 edition of our one-stop 50 State Desktop Reference, which surveys the most-asked questions related to the use of restrictive covenants and intellectual capital protection in all 50 states, including the recent non-compete legislation passed in Massachusetts this August. For the company executive, in-house counsel, or HR professional, we hope this guide will provide a starting point to answer your questions about protecting your company’s most valuable and confidential assets.

To request a hard copy or a pdf of the 2018-2019 edition of the 50 State Desktop Reference, click the button below.

In Seyfarth’s fifth installment in its 2018 Trade Secrets Webinar Series, Seyfarth attorneys Kate Perrelli, Erik Weibust, and Dawn Mertineit focused on Massachusetts non-compete and trade secrets reform. At long last, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker signed a Non-Compete Reform Bill into law on August 10. The presenters focused on what businesses should understand about the impacts of the changes, what to expect next, and how to safeguard assets and maintain an advantage over competitors.

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

  • Non-competes must be limited to one year, but can be extended to two if the employee breaches his or her fiduciary duty or steals company property.
  • Must be in writing and signed by both parties; at least 10 days’ notice must be provided to employees/candidates; and the right to counsel must be explicit in the agreement.
  • Garden leave is not required.  “Other mutually agreed-upon consideration” is adequate.  But what that means, and whether the court will even assess the adequacy of consideration, is left to the courts to determine.
  • Continued employment is no longer sufficient consideration.  Something more, that is “fair and reasonable” must be provided.  Again, what that means is left to the courts to determine.
  • Choice of law and venue requirements are likely unenforceable in other states and in federal court.  Nevertheless, comply with the law in case an employee files a declaratory judgment action in Massachusetts.
  • Bottom line:  Be clear in your agreements.  All the law really does is establish what must, may, and may not be included in private agreements.

Please join us for a one-hour CLE webinar on Thursday, August 16, 2018, at 1:00 p.m. Eastern / 12:00 p.m. Central / 10:00 a.m. Pacific.

On August 10, Governor Charlie Baker signed a Non-Compete Reform Bill into law. Although the bill largely codifies existing common law, there are some significant changes that companies with employees is Massachusetts should be aware of. Among other things, non-competes may not be enforced against certain types of employees; continued employment will no longer be sufficient consideration for existing employees; any employees subject to non-compete restrictions must be provided with “garden leave” (i.e., 50% of their base pay) during the restricted period, or “other mutually agreed upon consideration” (which is not defined); there are new notification requirements, and agreements with Massachusetts employees purportedly may not apply the laws of other states or mandate venue for lawsuits outside of Massachusetts.

As part of the same overarching economic development bill, Massachusetts has also now joined 48 other states in adopting the Uniform Trade Secrets Act, which will also changes existing law (although without creating nearly as much confusion and uncertainty as the non-compete law).

Understanding the impact of these changes, and what to expect, will help your company safeguard its most valuable assets and maintain its advantage over competitors.  Please join Seyfarth Shaw’s Boston team for an informative webinar on what to expect when this law goes into effect on October 1, 2018.

Late last night, after close to a decade of “will they or won’t they” nail biters, the Massachusetts legislature finally passed a non-compete bill, just minutes before the end of the 2018 legislative session. (For a recap of the many twists and turns over the years, here is just a smattering of blog posts on the topic).

The new bill, which will become effective on October 1, 2018, if signed by Governor Baker, codifies certain aspects of existing common law, but makes some significant changes to non-compete jurisprudence in the Bay State that employers will need to be mindful of. Continue Reading At Long Last, Non-Compete Legislation: Massachusetts Finally Passes Non-Compete Bill After Nearly a Decade