Tagged: Restrictive Covenant Litigation

Proposed Nationwide FTC Ban on Non-Compete Clauses

On January 5, 2023, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced a proposed rule (“Rule”) that would effectively impose a nationwide ban on all existing and future non-compete clauses between workers and employers. By way of background, a non-compete clause is a type of restrictive covenant that prevents a worker from working for a competitor or starting a competing business, generally within a certain geographical area and time frame after the worker’s employment ends. The FTC’s position, as stated in the Rule’s overview, is that non-compete clauses prevent workers from leaving jobs, lower competition for workers, and reduce wages. According to the FTC, non-compete clauses also stop new businesses from forming, stifle entrepreneurship, and prevent novel innovation that would take place if workers were able to freely share ideas. On the other hand, proponents of non-compete clauses have historically argued, among other things, that they are necessary to protect an employer’s confidential information, trade secrets, and intellectual property and its often considerable investment in the training and development of  its employees. Non-compete agreements are currently subject to state law. Key components of the proposed Rule include: Providing that it is an “unfair method of competition” for an employer to enter into a non-compete clause with a worker, attempt to do so, or inform a worker they...

Third Circuit Permits Extra-Strong Restrictive Covenants for Extra-Good Employees

In a recent “precedential” opinion, the Third Circuit, applying New Jersey law, approved an employer’s use of an additional, extra-stringent restrictive covenant for its high-performing salespeople, subject to careful blue lining by the court to ensure that the covenant does not create an unreasonable burden for the employees. ADP, LLC, the well-known provider of payroll and other human resources services, required its new sales employees, as a condition of employment, to sign a Sales Representative Agreement and a Non-Disclosure Agreement. Together, the two agreements essentially prohibited the employee, for one year after the termination of employment, from soliciting ADP customers “with which the Employee was involved or exposed” while employed at ADP. Once employed, ADP’s sales staff could earn stock awards by meeting certain sales targets. But to receive an award, the employee had to sign a third agreement, a Restrictive Covenant Agreement, which imposed still more post-employment restrictions on the employee. Among other things, the Restrictive Covenant Agreement essentially prohibited the employee for two years after termination from soliciting all current and prospective ADP customers, whether or not the employee was “involved or exposed” to the customer while employed by ADP. The Restrictive Covenant Agreement also contained a geographic restriction, which essentially prohibited the employee from competing against ADP in the same geographic area...

Third Circuit Considers Whether Employer May Access Employee’s Password-Protected Information from Work Computer

In a recent “Not Precedential” opinion, a divided Third Circuit panel engaged in an instructive and interesting debate about whether, under New Jersey law, an employer may access and monitor a former employee’s password-protected accounts using information the employee left on his work computer. The case involved a group of employees who left an employer en masse to join a competing enterprise. One of the departing employees failed to log out of his Facebook account before he returned his computer to the employer. The employer was thus able to—and did—monitor for more than a month the employee’s password-protected Facebook activity, which included Facebook Messenger exchanges among the other former employees in which the employees admitted to improperly sending the employer’s confidential information to their new employer. When the employer sought a preliminary injunction against the former employees, the employees claimed that the old employer had unclean hands—and thus was not entitled to an injunction—because of its post-termination monitoring of the employee’s password-protected Facebook activity and other password-protected accounts. The district court rejected the unclean hands defense and entered an injunction. On appeal the majority held that the employer’s monitoring of the employee’s accounts was not sufficiently related to the employees’ wrongful conduct to support an unclean hands defense. But the majority did not stop there....

Pennsylvania Superior Court Upholds Pennsylvania Choice-of-Law Provision in Restrictive Covenant Dispute Involving California Employee

In Synthes USA Sales, LLC v. Peter Harrison and Globus Medical, Inc., No. 12 EDA 2013, the Superior Court of Pennsylvania applied a Pennsylvania choice-of-law provision in an employment agreement containing confidentiality and non-solicitation provisions in a dispute over an employee who worked in California. In Pennsylvania, so-called “restrictive covenants” and “non-competes” are enforceable if they are incident to an employment relationship, reasonably necessary to protect the employer’s legitimate interests, reasonably limited in duration and geographical scope, and supported by adequate consideration. California law, in contrast, is notoriously hostile to restrictive covenants, with a statute rendering most employment restrictive covenants unenforceable.