ACBA Young Lawyers’ Division newsletter Point of Law
(By Alexandra Farone)
On January 5, 2023, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) proposed a national ban on noncompetition agreements. Noncompetition agreements, or “non-competes,” are contractual terms between employers and workers that prohibit the worker from working for a competing employer or starting a competing business, typically within a certain geographic area for a certain period of time. If a worker violates a non-compete clause, the employer can sue the worker for breach of contract and may be able to obtain a preliminary injunction enjoining the worker to stop the conduct that purportedly violates the non-compete clause. If successful in litigation, the employer may be able to obtain a permanent injunction and/or the payment of monetary damages. If the FTC’s proposed ban becomes final, this is all about to change.
As a basis for the proposed rule, the FTC made a preliminary finding that non-competes constitute an unfair method of competition in violation of Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act (the “Act”). Section 5 of the Act provides that “unfair methods of competition in or affecting commerce” are unlawful, and that the FTC is “empowered and directed” to prevent businesses from using unfair methods of competition.
Under the proposed rule, employers could not ask new employees, independent contractors, or even unpaid volunteers to sign non-competes. All existing non-competes would have to be rescinded, and employers would have to inform current and former workers on an individual basis that their noncompete is no longer in effect within 45 days of the rescission. The proposed rule would also prohibit employers from attempting to enter non-competes, or representing to a worker under certain circumstances that the worker is subject to an enforceable noncompete. …