Employers have been keeping a close watch for rulemaking and action by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) restricting non-competes. Earlier this month, the FTC answered the Executive Order’s call with enforcement activities and a proposed rule signaling a considerable effort to prioritize employer-employee non-compete covenants as
New state and federal limits on post-employment restrictive covenants mean employers must stay on top of more than just vaccination policies or the logistics of office reopenings. The swath of new and on-the-horizon legislation aimed at limiting the enforceability of post-employment non-compete agreements deserves employers’ attention too. Part One of our blog post series on restrictive covenants addressed the intersection of remote work and state non-compete laws. Now, in Part Two, we summarize recent updates to state non-compete laws, pending state legislation that could impact non-competes, and new federal-level activity aimed at limiting non-competes.
Colorado recently raised the stakes for violations of its non-compete law. Effective March 1, 2022, under SB 21-271, a person who violates Colorado’s non-compete statute commits a class 2 misdemeanor.
Colorado’s non-compete statute (C.R.S. section 8-2-113) voids agreements that restrict trade, such as non-competition and non-solicitation of customers covenants, unless they fall within a specific statutory exception: (i) a contract for the purchase or sale of a business or its assets; (ii) a contract for protecting trade secrets; (iii) a contract provision recovering education or training expenses associated with an employee who has been with an employer for less than two years; or (iv) a restriction on executive or management personnel or each of their professional staff. As of March 1, 2022, a person who violates this statute commits a class 2 misdemeanor punishable by up to 120 days in jail and / or a fine of up to $750.
Many questions remain about the enforcement of this amendment, such as who will face ultimate liability for the employer (e.g., in-house counsel, HR staff, line managers, etc.). And though there is no indication that the new law is retroactive, Colorado employers were subject to criminal penalties for a violation of Colorado’s non-compete law even prior to SB 21-271 being passed, under C.R.S. section 8-2-115. SB 21-271 repealed C.R.S. section 8-2-115 while simultaneously inserting language into the non-compete statute itself making a violation a class 2 misdemeanor. It remains to be seen whether this is simple statutory consolidation, or a signal that Colorado plans to increase enforcement of violations of its non-compete statute. Employers should review their non-compete agreements and internal policies regarding which employees are required to sign such agreements to make sure they are in compliance with this new law.…
The writing is on the wall: remote work is here to stay. According to data collected by Ladders, three million professional jobs in the US went permanently remote in the fourth quarter 2021 alone. By the end of 2021, 18 percent of all professional jobs in the US were remote. Ladders projects that number will be close to 25 percent by the end of 2022. Of course, this leaves employment lawyers and HR professionals wondering — what employment laws apply to our distributed workforce?
One particularly thorny issue facing employers in this context is the permissibility of post-termination non-competition agreements. Non-compete laws and their requirements differ greatly from state to state. For example, in Illinois, one of the requirements is that the employee must earn at least $75,000 annually in order to enter into an enforceable post-termination non-compete, but in Oregon, that minimum annual income threshold increases to $100,533 — and that same employee would be subject to no income threshold if Missouri law applied. On the other hand, in Colorado, where post-termination non-competes are generally unlawful, the employer could soon face misdemeanor criminal liability for seeking to enforce an unlawful post-termination non-compete against any employee, and in California, the employer could be exposed to compensatory and punitive damages if a claim is accompanied by other deemed tortious conduct (e.g., interference with the employee’s future employment prospects by seeking to enforce the unlawful agreement).
In this post, we analyze how remote work further muddles the already complicated landscape of post-termination non-competes and how employers can best navigate this complex backdrop.
What law applies? Guidance from recent case law
One issue arising out of remote work is knowing what state’s law will apply when it comes to the enforceability of non-compete restrictions. With remote work, long gone are the days where an employer can be relatively certain that the state where an employee is located at the beginning of the employment relationship will be the same state that employee is living and working in at the end of the employment relationship. As a result, when the need to enforce non-compete restrictions arises, the parties may dispute what state’s law should apply to the non-compete (e.g., the state where the employee was located when they entered into the contract, the state where the employee began work for the employer, or the state whether the employee was living or working at the end of the employment relationship).…
Baker McKenzie’s Labor and Employment, Trade Secrets and Antitrust lawyers explore the impact on employers of the severe limitations on post-employment noncompete restrictions outlined in President Biden’s Executive Order on Promoting Competition in the American Economy and the supporting Fact Sheet.
The 2020 presidential race is well underway in the U.S. Labor policy has been and will continue to be a key talking point for Democratic candidates and President Donald Trump moving into the general election.
In part one of this two-part article, we examine the key labor policy proposals advanced by the leading Democratic contenders…
In part one of this article, we discussed when and how multinational companies can use a noncompetition agreement on their highly skilled employees to protect their confidential information and other intellectual property. In particular, we described five key factors to consider before rolling out noncompete covenants around the world.
In part two, we analyze how…
As multinational companies compete for highly skilled employees around the world, they are often confronted with a deceptively simple question: Do they impose a noncompetition agreement on their employees?
This article is part one of a two-part article addressing how multinational companies can use a noncompetition agreement on their highly skilled employees to protect their…
Going into 2020, employers should be mindful of several new state laws aimed at limiting the enforceability of noncompete agreements against low-wage employees. Crucially, while protecting low-wage worker job mobility is the key aspect of these new state laws, each has its own unique nuances and one-off requirements, further complicating employer efforts to protect their…
California courts mostly take a no prisoners approach to Business and Professions Code section 16600, the statute prohibiting illegal restraints on trade. Courts broadly interpret Section 16600, which states that “every contract by which anyone is restrained from engaging in a lawful profession, trade, or business of any kind is to that extent void,” to invalidate most post-employment non-competes and customer non-solicits, including covenants preventing former employees or their new employers from “hiring” employees of a former employer (so-called “no hire agreements”). But Section 16600 does not bar all post-employment covenants–just those that “restrain” trade.
As employment lawyers based in California are well aware that post-employment non-compete agreements are generally void as a matter of law in this state. Further, there is precedent for awarding punitive damages and disgorgement of profits where employers have knowingly required employees to enter into invalid agreements. Also, the DOL has actively pursued California-based companies engaging in anti-competitive practices when it comes to talent.
Against that backdrop, however, employers need not “throw in the towel” completely when it comes to post-termination restrictive covenants as there are a few narrow scenarios that allow for enforceable post-termination non-competes in California in the right circumstances, and a potential new take on an old strategy to consider.…