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Caroline Burnett is a Knowledge Lawyer in Baker McKenzie’s North America Employment & Compensation Group. Caroline is passionate about analyzing trends in US and global employment law and developing innovative solutions to help multinationals stay ahead of the curve. Prior to joining Baker McKenzie in 2016, she had a broad employment law practice at a full-service, national firm. Caroline holds a J.D. from the University of San Francisco School of Law (2008) and a B.A. from Brown University (2002).

On May 17, 2024 Colorado Governor Polis signed the landmark Colorado AI Act (Senate Bill 24-205) into law. Colorado is now the first US state with comprehensive AI regulation, adopting a classification system like the European Union’s recent AI Act. The law will take effect February 1, 2026

The law exempts small employers (fewer than fifty full-time employees) from some of its requirements but otherwise requires companies to take extensive measures to protect Colorado residents against harms such as algorithmic discrimination.

SB 205’s Details

SB 205 requires “developers” and “deployers” of “high-risk artificial intelligence systems” to use “reasonable care” to protect Colorado resident consumers from any known or reasonably foreseeable risks of “algorithmic discrimination.” As written, the law most likely applies to both creators of high-risk AI systems, as well as employers adopting high-risk AI technologies within their organization.  Continue Reading From Brussels to Boulder: Colorado Enacts Comprehensive AI Law with Significant Obligations for Employers on the Heels of the EU AI Act

The FTC rule banning post-employment noncompetes was published in the Federal Register on May 7, which means the rule will take effect on September 4, 2024, unless pending lawsuits to void the rule are successful.

Despite considerable uncertainty around when, or even whether, the rule will apply, employers should prepare now so as not to be caught flatfooted. The first step is to understand the rule’s parameters and potential impact on your business. Our FAQs guide you through the intricacies of the rule and the steps you should take while waiting for the lawsuits challenging the rule to be resolved.

Application of the Rule to Workers

1. Does the rule apply to B2B noncompetes?

No, the FTC rule does not apply to business-to-business (B2B) noncompetes. Instead, existing federal antitrust laws should continue to be considered when evaluating B2B noncompetes.

2. Does the rule apply to all workers?

No, there are limited exceptions. First, the rule does not invalidate existing noncompete agreements (i.e. agreements entered into on or before the effective date of September 4, 2024) with “senior executives.” After that date, new noncompetes with all US employees will be prohibited.

Senior executive” means a worker who received “total annual compensation” of at least $151,164 in the preceding year (or the equivalent amount when annualized if the worker was employed during only part of the year) and who is in a “policy-making position.”

  • “Total annual compensation” may include salary, commissions, nondiscretionary bonuses, and other nondiscretionary compensation earned during the preceding year, but does not include the cost of, or contributions to, fringe benefit programs.
  • Those in a “policy-making position” may include the President, CEO or equivalent, or others with “policy-making authority,” meaning “final authority to make policy decisions that control significant aspects of a business entity or common enterprise.” In the Supplementary Information to the rule (the FTC’s commentary on the rule), the Commission notes “many executives in what is often called the ‘C-suite’ will likely be senior executives if they are making decisions that have a significant impact on the business, such as important policies that affect most or all of the business. Partners in a business, such as physician partners of an independent physician practice, would also generally qualify as senior executives under the duties prong, assuming the partners have authority to make policy decisions about the business.”

Second, the rule does not apply to workers outside of the United States. See FAQ 11 below.Continue Reading Thirteen Things You Didn’t Know About the FTC’s Noncompete Ban and Five Steps to Prepare Now in Case it Takes Effect

Millions of additional employees will soon be eligible for federal overtime because of the Department of Labor’s April 23 Final Rule. Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), certain salaried employees are exempt from federal minimum wage and overtime requirements if they are employed in a bona fide executive, administrative, or professional (EAP) capacity. This is sometimes called the “white collar” exemption. The Final Rule:

  • Increases the minimum salary requirement for the EAP exemption from $684 per week ($35,568 annualized) to $844 per week ($43,888 annualized) effective July 1, 2024 and to $1,128 per week ($58,656 annualized) effective January 1, 2025; and
  • Increases the minimum total annual compensation level for exemption as a “highly compensated employee”—e.g., one who customarily and regularly performs any one or more of the exempt duties or responsibilities of an executive, administrative or professional employee—from $107,432 to $132,964 effective July 1, 2024 and to $151,164 effective January 1, 2025.

Continue Reading DOL Raises the Federal Overtime Salary Threshold | Next Steps for US Employers

On Tuesday this week, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued its highly anticipated final rule on noncompetes, imposing a near-total ban on worker noncompetes in the United States. Barring injunctive relief from legal challenges (which have already started), the rule will take effect 120 days from publication in the federal register.

Interestingly, the rule exempts noncompete covenants entered into pursuant to a bona fide sale of a business. While “bona fide” is not defined in the final rule, the Supplementary Information for the rule explains that the FTC considered but rejected percentage and dollar minimum thresholds for the sale of business exception to weed out “exploitative and coercive” noncompetes and clarified that excepted noncompetes must be given “pursuant to a bona fide sale.” The Supplementary Information further explains that the FTC considers a bona fide sale to be one that is made between two independent parties at arm’s length, and in which the seller has a reasonable opportunity to negotiate the terms of the sale. In contrast, the FTC specifically calls out as problematic “springing noncompetes,” which apply to employees in the event of a sale and mandatory stock redemption or repurchase programs because the employee has no goodwill to exchange in the sale for the noncompete and no meaningful opportunity to negotiate at the time of contracting.

Nevertheless, the bona fide sale exception is broad and preserves the status quo by allowing buyers in M&A transactions to obtain noncompetes from individual sellers in circumstances where such noncompetes are otherwise permitted currently. While the pending and anticipated legal challenges to the rule are significant and place the entire rule in jeopardy, the sale of business exception is not likely to be narrowed because of these challenges.

So, what does this new regime mean for M&A?

What Type of Noncompetes Are Impacted?

The Supplementary Information confirms that the new rule does not apply to B2B noncompetes or nonsolicits. Instead, the focus of the rule is noncompetes with workers that limit their ability to work for others. So the rule does not impact current B2B agreements.

Second, the FTC repeatedly makes the point that noncompetes must meet existing state and federal law restrictions (e.g., reasonable in scope and duration; limited to the goodwill to be acquired, etc.) to be enforceable, even if they otherwise fall within the sale of business exception in the new rule. This is the case because the FTC rule creates a new floor for noncompetes by preempting more lax state rules, but it does not preempt more stringent state laws or federal antitrust restrictions.Continue Reading Still Going Strong: M&A Noncompetes and the FTC’s Final Rule on Noncompetes

Employers have been eagerly awaiting the EEOC’s Final Rule to implement the Pregnant Worker Fairness Act, and it’s (finally!) here. On April 15, the EEOC issued the Final Rule, which largely follows the proposed rule (we blogged about the proposed rule here, and about the PWFA here). The Final Rule was published in the Federal Register on April 19, 2024 and will take effect on June 18, 2024. There are no major surprises for employers, but the Final Rule has arrived with a bit of controversy.Continue Reading Special Delivery: The PWFA Final Rule Has Arrived

On April 23, the Federal Trade Commission voted 3-2 to issue its final rule on noncompetes, imposing a near-total ban on all employer-employee noncompetes in the US. Barring challenges (the first lawsuits have already been filed), the rule would become effective 120 days from publication.

The rule will be a game-changer for companies operating in the US if it takes effect as issued.

Breaking it Down

What does the rule do?

With only a few exceptions, the FTC’s now-final rule declares employer-employee noncompete clauses an “unfair method of competition,” and a violation of Section 5 of the FTC Act. The rule targets both formal noncompete clauses and “functional noncompete” clauses that have the effect of prohibiting the worker from seeking or accepting employment with a person or operating a business after the conclusion of the worker’s employment with the employer. This can include broad nondisclosure agreements that have the effect of precluding workers from seeking employment opportunities in the same field.Continue Reading Breaking News: The FTC Bans Nearly All Employer-Employee Noncompetes Except Those Given as Part of a ‘Bona Fide’ Sale of Business

Last week, a unanimous US Supreme Court held that an employee need only show “some harm” from a change in the terms and conditions of employment, rather than a “significant” employment disadvantage, to assert a claim for discrimination under Title VII. The decision resolves a circuit split over the showing required for discrimination claims based on changes less drastic than demotions, terminations, or pay reductions, and underscores the continued importance of taking a thoughtful approach to any change in the terms and conditions of an employee’s employment.Continue Reading Less is More: SCOTUS Shifts Title VII Threshold to “Some” Harm (Though Plaintiffs Must Still Show Discriminatory Intent)

The Department of Labor’s “new” rule for classifying workers as employees or independent contractors under the Fair Labor Standards Act took effect March 11, 2024. The DOL’s Final Rule returns employers to a familiar pre-Trump administration totality of the circumstances test that focuses on the “economic realities” of the worker’s situation. The practical impact is that it is now harder for businesses to classify workers as independent contractors, and it will likely increase federal wage and hour claims.

There are mounting legal challenges to the Final Rule contesting the DOL’s rulemaking authority. However, to date, none of the suits have been successful at blocking implementation of the Final Rule. So, for now, it stands.

Practice pointer: different legal tests for different laws

Employers new to the US are often baffled to learn that no single test exists to evaluate independent contractor status for all purposes. This means compliance is complicated since different tests may apply depending on the context. And yes, this also means that it’s feasible for a worker to be an independent contractor for some purposes and an employee for others (such as under state and federal law, for example). Continue reading for a summary of the key tests that come up most often for US multinationals.Continue Reading New DOL Rule Makes it Harder to Classify Workers as Independent Contractors (Plus a Quick Recap of the Key Misclassification Standards Across the US)

You’re not alone in wondering where the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s final regulations to implement the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act are. In fact, they are well past their due date.

How it started

The PWFA became effective on June 27, 2023. In August 2023, the EEOC published proposed regulations to implement the PWFA. (We outlined the proposed regulations in our blog here, and about the PWFA here). The public comment period for the proposed regulations closed October 10, 2023, and the proposed regulations were delivered to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (“OIRA”) on December 27, 2023 for review.

How it is going

However, to date, no final regulations have been issued, despite the PWFA’s requirement that the EEOC issue regulations by December 29, 2023. The regulations, once finalized, will provide clarity for employers implementing policies and practices to comply with the PWFA. For instance, the proposed regulations outline a nonexhaustive list of what the EEOC considers potential accommodations under the PWFA, including job restructuring and part-time or modified work schedules.

However, even without final regulations in place, employers are required to meet the PWFA’s mandates. The proposed regulations can still be used to offer insight into how the EEOC believes the PWFA should be interpreted.Continue Reading Pregnant Pause: The EEOC’s Delay In Issuing Final Regs For The PWFA Should Not Delay Compliance

As a consistent trend-setter in passing employee-friendly legislation, California has enacted the country’s first workplace violence prevention safety requirements applicable to nearly all employers in the state.

SB 553 requires California employers to adopt a comprehensive workplace violence prevention plan, train employees on workplace violence, and begin logging incidents by July 1, 2024.

Detailed Requirements for a Written Plan

The workplace violence prevention plan must be written, available and easily accessible to employees (as well as authorized employee representatives and Cal/OSHA representatives).Continue Reading California Employers: Prepare Your Workplace Violence Prevention Plan (Deadline In T-Minus 3 Months)