Trade Secrets & Noncompete Blog

Trade Secrets & Noncompete Blog

News & Updates On Developments in the Law of Restrictive Covenants, Unfair Competition & Trade Secrets

Tag Archives: Non-Compete Agreements

Key Trade Secret and Non-Compete Developments in 2016 – Employment Law This Week

The year-end episode of Employment Law This Week  looks back at the biggest employment, workforce, and management issues in 2016.

Our colleague Jonathan Shapiro discusses the impact of the Defend Trade Secrets Act (DTSA)—which opened federal courts to trade secrets claims, regardless of the dollar value—and the White House’s call to action encouraging states to ban non-compete agreements in some circumstances.

Watch the segment below and read Epstein Becker Green’s recent Take 5 newsletter, “Top Five Employment, Labor & Workforce Management Issues of 2016.”

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“List of Holiday-Related Trade Secret/Non-Compete Cases”

LightsWhether you are a young child missing teeth, or a grown-up taking account of her life, or Santa Claus himself checking up on everyone else’s life, many of us make lists at holiday time.  They can be lists of gifts we want, or those we need to get, or people we wish to see or write to, or things we need or want to do before the end of the year.  Sometimes they are just lists of things that happened this year or that we want to happen next year.  Certainly there are lots of “Top Ten” holiday lists.  This … Continue Reading

White House Call to Action Could Spur More States, Including New York, to Act Against Non-Competes

Political winds disfavoring non-compete agreements for low wage and rank-and-file workers continue to blow, and appear to be picking up speed.

On October 25, 2016, the White House took the unusual step of issuing a “Call to Action” to states regarding non-compete agreements, as part of the President’s initiative to stoke competition across the economy.  Calling non-competes an “institutional factor that has the potential to hold back wages and entrepreneurship,” the Call to Action seeks to reduce the misuse of non-compete agreements nationwide.

President Obama called on state policymakers to join in pursuing best-practice policy objectives, including:

  1. Banning
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Illinois Passes Law Banning Noncompete Agreements for Low Wage Workers

Illinois Capitol BuildingIllinois recently became one of the first states to ban non-compete agreements for low wage workers when it passed the Illinois Freedom to Work Act. The law, which takes effect on January 1, 2017 and applies to agreements signed after that date, bars non-compete agreements for workers who earn the greater of 1) the Federal, State, or local minimum wage or 2) $13.00 an hour.  At present, because the State minimum wage is below $13.00 per hour, $13.00 an hour is the operative figure in Illinois.

While Illinois is one of the first states to enact this type of blanket … Continue Reading

New York Attorney General Targets Non-Competes for Rank-and-File Workers

This summer, New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman has reached agreements with a number of companies curtailing their use of non-competition agreements with respect to non-executive and low-wage employees in New York. The issue appears to have caught the attention of Mr. Schneiderman, who stated recently that “restricting rank-and-file workers from being able to find other jobs is unjust and inappropriate” and “workers should be able to change jobs without fear of being sued.”

For example, on August 4, 2016, Examination Management Services, Inc. (“EMSI”), a medical information services provider headquartered in Texas, agreed to stop using non-compete agreements … Continue Reading

No New Non-Compete Law for Massachusetts in 2016

David J. Clark

David J. Clark

The Massachusetts legislature ended its 2015-2106 session on July 31, 2016, and lawmakers did not pass new legislation regarding non-compete agreements before doing so.

For the last few years, numerous efforts have been made in the Commonwealth to limit the use of non-compete agreements, resulting in several bills introduced in the Statehouse.  The latest bills, introduced in the House in June and the Senate in mid-July, would have set clear boundaries on the use of non-compete agreements by employers, including by establishing requirements that such non-compete provisions be signed and in writing, not exceed 12 months … Continue Reading

Assignment Lessons: 8th Circuit Finds Assigned Non-Competes Enforceable — Under Certain Facts

The 8th Circuit’s recent decision in Symphony Diagnostic Servs. No. 1 v. Greenbaum, No. 15-2294, __ F.3d __ (8th Cir. July 6, 2016), upheld the enforceability of non-compete and confidentiality agreements assigned by Ozark Mobile Imaging to Mobilex as part of Mobilex’s purchase of Ozark’s assets.  Although the 8th Circuit is careful to ground its analysis in that case’s specific factual and legal framework, this decision is helpful in providing some guidance to those dealing with the assignability of rights under non-compete and confidentiality agreements.

The non-compete and confidentiality agreements at issue were (1) “free standing” … Continue Reading

Companies on Notice as White House Releases Report on Non-Competes

Matthew Savage Aibel

Matthew Savage Aibel

On May 6, the White House released a report entitled: “Non-Compete Agreements: Analysis of the Usage, Potential Issues, and State Responses” (the “White House Report”).  This report comes on the heels of the United States Department of Treasury’s Office of Economic Policy releasing a similar report about non-competes in March 2016 (the “Treasury Report”).  While the U.S. economy has recovered since the last recession, the Obama Administration has identified a decline in competition for workers as a structural problem worth tackling in its final months.  The Administration believes that non-competes restrict workers’ ability to … Continue Reading

Former Workers Violated Ex-Employer’s Trade Secret Rights – Employment Law This Week

Peter Steinmeyer, co-editor of this blog, is featured in the top story on Employment Law This Week.

As the story explains, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit has upheld a ruling that a group of workers at a fastener company used confidential drawings from the company to design, manufacture, and sell competing parts for their new business venture. On appeal, the former workers argued that they were “filling a gap” for customers, not competing with the original company. But the Sixth Circuit found that this argument ignored undisputed evidence in the case.

Mr. Steinmeyer discusses steps that … Continue Reading

Pennsylvania Supreme Court Holds That Mere Continued Employment Is Not Adequate Consideration To Support A Restrictive Covenant

Weighing in on an issue that is drawing attention nationwide, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court recently held, in Socko v. Mid-Atlantic Systems of CPA, Inc., that the mere continuation of employment is not sufficient consideration to support a restrictive covenant.  Rather, for there to be sufficient consideration, the Court held that the employee must receive “some corresponding benefit or a favorable change in employment status.”  As examples of such sufficient additional consideration, the Court cited “a promotion, a change from part-time to full-time employment, or even a change to a compensation package of bonuses, insurance benefits, and severance benefits.”   The … Continue Reading

Illinois Appellate Court Strikes Down Overbroad Noncompete, Nonsolicit, and Confidentiality Provisions and Also Refuses to Judicially Modify Them

In a decision issued in late October, AssuredPartners, Inc. et al. v. William Schmitt, 2015 IL  App. (1st) 141863 (Ill. App. 2015),  the Illinois Appellate Court struck down as overbroad and unreasonable, the noncompete, nonsolicit and confidentiality provisions in an employment agreement.  The Court then refused to judicially modify or “blue pencil” these provisions because the Court deemed their deficiencies “too great to permit modification.”  This decision is essentially a primer on current Illinois law regarding restrictive covenants and confidentiality agreements.

Starting with the noncompetition provision at issue, the Court held that it was overbroad because … Continue Reading

“Red River Rivalry” Reaches Right To Restrict Employment

The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit opened its October 29th opinion in Cardoni v. Prosperity Bank by noting that “[i]n addition to their well-known disagreements over boundaries and football” known as the Red River Rivalry, “Texas and Oklahoma do not see eye to eye on a less prominent issue: covenants not to compete.”   As the Court went on to note, “Texas generally allows them so long as they are limited both geographically and temporally… Oklahoma generally does not.”  “These different policy choices—Texas’s view which prioritizes parties’ freedom to contract and Oklahoma’s which emphasizes the right … Continue Reading

Florida Restrictive Covenant Statute Remains “Truly Obnoxious” In New York Courts

If you are an employer with employees in New York (or elsewhere) who have signed an agreement containing a Florida choice of law clause and non-compete and/or non-solicit restrictive covenants, it may be time to revise your agreement.

We blogged last year regarding a decision of the New York Appellate Division, Fourth Department in Brown & Brown, Inc. v. Johnson, holding that a Florida choice of law provision in an employment agreement among a Florida corporation, its New York subsidiary, and a New York based and resident employee containing restrictive covenants is unenforceable because certain elements of the Florida restrictive … Continue Reading

A Dash of Certainty – Alabama’s New Restrictive Covenant Statute

Alabama has a new restrictive covenant statute.  A few weeks ago, Alabama Governor Bentley signed new legislation which will repeal the 1975 version of Alabama Code Section 8-1-1 titled “Contracts restraining business void; exceptions” and replace it with a new version effective January 1, 2016.

The new law stakes out the permissible scope and purpose of restrictive covenants such as non-compete and non-solicitation agreements.  Unlike some other states with restrictive covenant statutes, Alabama’s new law codifies a middle-of-the-road approach to restrictive covenants.  Essentially, it allows non-compete and non-solicitation clauses for many employees provided they contain reasonable restrictions.  In explaining … Continue Reading

Another Illinois Appellate Decision Applies Fifield, But A Dissent Suggests That The Issue Of What Constitutes Adequate Consideration For A Restrictive Covenant In Illinois Remains Open For Judicial Discussion

Readers of this blog know that long settled understandings regarding what constitutes adequate consideration for a restrictive covenant in Illinois were turned upside down when the First District Appellate Court in Illinois held in Fifield v. Premier Dealer Services, 2013 IL App. (1st) 120327  that, absent other consideration, two years of employment are required for a restrictive covenant to be supported by adequate consideration, regardless of whether the covenant was signed at the outset of employment or after, and regardless of whether the employee quit or was fired.

The Illinois Supreme Court declined to hear Fifield, … Continue Reading

California Court Of Appeal Holds That Party Seeking To Enforce Forum Selection Clause As To Unwaivable Statutory Rights Has Burden To Show Enforcement Would Not Diminish Rights

California Business & Professions Code § 16600 contains a strong public policy against non-competition agreements.  To address this prohibition, some employers have included choice of forum provisions in their employment contracts to give them the option of initiating an action in a more non-compete friendly jurisdiction and obtain leverage in the litigation.  Some federal district courts have enforced those forum selection clauses.  Marcelo v. Ivy Ventures, LLC, No. C 10-04609, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 134333 (N.D. Cal. Dec. 9, 2010); Google, Inc. v. Microsoft Corp., 415 F. Supp. 2d 1018 (N.D. Cal. 2005); Hartstein v. Rembrandt IP SolutionsContinue Reading

Wisconsin Supreme Court Holds That Continued Employment Is Sufficient Consideration For A Non-Compete Signed By A Current At-Will Employee, Provided That The Employee Is Not Fired Shortly After Signing

Over the past 24 months, one of the hottest issues in non-compete law has been whether continued at-will employment, by itself, is sufficient consideration for a non-compete.

Last week, in Runzheimer International v. Friedlen and Corporate Reimbursement Services, Inc., the Wisconsin Supreme weighed in on this issue, holding that continued employment is sufficient consideration for a non-compete signed by a current at-will employee.  However, the Court expressly qualified this holding by explaining that if an at-will employee is fired “shortly after signing” a non-compete, the non-compete would “likely” be voidable and subject to rescission. The Court further qualified … Continue Reading

Massachusetts Court Defers Non-Compete Case To Arbitration Even Though Competitor Is Not A Signatory To Former Employee’s Employment Agreement

In a recent case in Massachusetts, a Superior Court Judge denied a former employer’s motion for a restraining order in a case alleging a violation of a non-compete agreement and granted the cross motion of the former employee and current employer to compel arbitration even though the current employer was not a party to the arbitration clause which was included in the former employee’s Employment Agreement.

Facts

In Tibco Software, Inc. v Zephyr Health, Inc. and Kevin Willoe, Civil Action No 2015-844-BLS1 (Mass. Superior Court March 31, 2015), Plaintiff Tibco Software, Inc. (“Tibco”) filed a motion for … Continue Reading

The First Illinois Appellate Court Decision To Address Fifield’s “Two Years Of Employment/Consideration Rule” Strictly Adheres To It

Readers of this blog know that in the summer of 2013, long held beliefs about the required consideration for a restrictive covenant under Illinois law were thrown a curve when the Illinois Appellate Court for the First District (i.e., Cook County) held in Fifield v. Premier Dealer Services, Inc., 2013 IL App (1st) 120327, that, absent other consideration, two years of employment is required for a restrictive covenant to be deemed supported by adequate consideration—even where the employee signed the restrictive covenant as a condition to his employment offer and even where the employee voluntarily resigned.

Since … Continue Reading

Complimentary Webinar – A Year in Review: What’s New in the World of Trade Secrets and Non-Competes

To register for this webinar, please click here.

Join Epstein Becker Green Attorneys David J. Clark, Robert D. Goldstein, and Peter A. Steinmeyer on Tuesday, December 16, 2014 at 1:00 p.m. EST for a 60-minute webinar.

This webinar will discuss recent developments and what to expect in the evolving legal landscape of trade secrets and non-competition agreements. With some businesses progressively feeling that their trade secrets are at risk for attack by competitors – and perhaps, by their own employees – this session will focus on how to navigate this developing area and effectively protect client relationships … Continue Reading

Indiana Appellate Court Reverses Non-Compete Injunction Bond Of Only $100

The size of an injunction bond is not a common topic in appellate cases. Accordingly, a recent decision by the Indiana Appellate Court reversing the trial court’s setting of an injunction bond at only $100 in a non-compete case is noteworthy.

In Donald Moss v. Progressive Design Apparel, Inc., the Indiana Appellate Court affirmed a preliminary injunction which restricted a salesman’s ability to call upon customers of his former employer or disclose confidential information. As part of the trial court’s order granting injunctive relief, the trial court found that the enjoined salesman’s foreseeable loss in commissions due to the … Continue Reading

Restrictive Covenants: Better To Ask And Disclose

When recruiting an executive, or when being recruited, it is best practice for the future employer, the employee and any executive recruiting firm involved in the placement to address head-on the existence of any restrictive covenant limiting the future activities of the employee. The New York State Supreme Court – First Department Appellate Division – yesterday upheld a claim that by not clearly disclosing the existence of a non-solicitation restriction in an executive recruit’s employment agreement, the head hunter involved in the placement could potentially be held liable to the new employer for negligent and/or fraudulent misrepresentation. See Amsterdam Hospitality Continue Reading

“Material Change” Defense To Enforcement Of A Non-Compete In Massachusetts Still Alive And Well, But There Remain Unanswered Questions

For some time, I have been following the evolution of the “material change” defense to enforcement of a non-compete agreement in Massachusetts. Recently, it has been gaining traction, but there are still unanswered questions.

The doctrine was first introduced in F.A. Bartlett Tree Expert Co. v. Barrington by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court in 1968. However, it was not applied with any consistency by Massachusetts courts until very recently when a number of trial level courts and a Massachusetts Federal District Court held that a restrictive covenant is not enforceable if the employee’s job duties, compensation or employment relationship substantially … Continue Reading

A Mere Peppercorn Can Constitute Consideration? Not always.

Most lawyers learn during their first year in law school that courts won’t inquire into the adequacy of consideration for a contract and that, as a result, a “mere peppercorn” can constitute consideration. It’s important to remember, though, that in many states, restrictive covenants are an exception to that rule.

The recent decision in the Pennsylvania Superior Court case of Socko v. Mid-Atlantic Systems of CPA, Inc. (2014 PA Super 103) illustrates this principle. The case involved a salesman in the basement waterproofing industry. He signed a noncompete agreement during his at-will employment. Continued at-will employment doesn’t constitute consideration for … Continue Reading

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