Tag Archives: restrictive covenants

Once again, we have resounding unanimity on the issues and recommendations to the FTC and DOJ, as they consider whether to regulate (and if so, how) noncompetes, nondisclosure agreements, and other restrictive covenants. 70 lawyers who practice extensively in the area of trade secret and restrictive covenant law agree: federal regulation is likely inappropriate, definitely premature, and, in any event, should be limited.
Contracts containing restrictive covenants (noncompetes, nonsolicitation agreements, and the like) have been the province of state regulation for over 200 years. However, starting in 2015, the federal government has been stepping into the breach through proposed legislation (most recently two bills to ban all employee noncompetes and one to amend the FLSA to ban noncompetes for nonexempt workers), FTC review (starting with a workshop in January 2020), and an Executive Order (on July 9, 2021) “encouraging” the FTC to “curtail the unfair use of non-compete clauses . . . .” While that’s not news, what is news is that earlier this week (September 14, 2021), the FTC issued a public statement that — if it is as broad as it appears — seems to presume that the FTC has authority to regulate these types of contracts.
A recent paper, “The Ethics of Noncompete Clauses,” by University of Georgia Professor Harrison Frye, expands the policy discussion around noncompetes, and argues for a more thoughtful analysis. As Professor Frye details, seeing noncompetes “as solely advancing the interests of employers is myopic.”
If you’ve been following along with this series of posts, you know that there have been 66 noncompete bills pending in 25 states this year — plus three pending federal noncompete bills, D.C.’s new law to ban most noncompetes, and a bill to rein in D.C’s new law before it becomes effective (which is anticipated to be in April 2022). Today’s post discusses New Jersey’s proposed noncompete legislation.
This afternoon, President Biden signed an “Executive Order on Promoting Competition in the American Economy,” which included pushing for the regulation of noncompetes by the FTC. Based on his comments during today’s press conference (discussed in the post), we expect that any regulation will be balanced, focusing on regulating the abuses, rather than a throw-the-baby-out-with-the-bathwater wholesale ban.