Courts and state legislatures continue to take aim at post-employment non-competes. In a companion blog, we recently detailed the Federal Trade Commission’s proposed rule banning post-employment non-competes. However, for years (and even under the FTC’s overreaching proposed rule), non-competes in the sale of business context have generally received less scrutiny.
Kevin Cloutier is a partner in the Labor and Employment and Business Trials Practice Groups. Kevin is the Leader of the Firm's Non-Compete and Trade Secrets Teams.
On January 5, 2023, the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) announced a broad proposed rule that would ban employers from imposing noncompete clauses on their workers. The FTC press release announcing the proposed rule states that noncompete clauses—which apply to about one in five American workers—suppress wages, hamper innovation, block entrepreneurs from starting new businesses and reduce American workers’ earnings between $250 billion and $296 billion per year. The proposed rule would prohibit employers from: (1) entering into or attempting to enter into a noncompete with a worker; (2) maintaining a noncompete with a worker; or (3) representing to a worker, under certain circumstances, that the worker is subject to a noncompete. The term “worker” covers paid staff in addition to independent contractors and unpaid staff. The proposed rule does not apply to noncompete provisions imposed upon 25% owners of a business in transaction documents related to the sale of the business. The proposal is subject to a 60-day public comment period commencing when the Federal Register publishes the proposed rule.…
Over the past two years, employee mobility seems to be at an all-time high. In fact, the labor market is so fluid that pundits and experts often refer to it as the “Great Resignation.” Although employee mobility can be a great opportunity for both employees and prospective employers, employers hiring new employees should always beware of potential problems such as restrictive covenants, which may follow an employee to a new job. …
Continue Reading Void vs. Voidable: The Distinction That Can Make or Break a Tortious Interference Claim in Light of the Great Resignation
On August 13, 2021, Governor Pritzker signed into law a bill amending the Illinois Freedom to Work Act governing restrictive covenants and non-competition agreements. On May 30, 2021, the Illinois General Assembly passed a bill codifying existing noncompete law in some respects and modifying it in others. We detailed the Bill in a prior blog here. The Bill is now the law. The amendments become effective on January 1, 2022 and will not apply retroactively.
Continue Reading Illinois Governor Signs Non-Compete Legislation
Following a nationwide trend, Illinois has proposed significant legislation affecting employee restrictive covenants, such as non-compete agreements. While the proposed law does not dramatically change most aspects of the patchwork of Illinois common law, it adds certainty to long-questioned areas and imposes several threshold hurdles and eligibility factors to the test for assessing enforceable restrictive covenants.
Continue Reading What Employers Need to Know About New Non-Compete Legislation in Illinois
The Supreme Court’s recent decision in Van Buren v. United States, — S. Ct. —-, 2021 WL 2229206 (2021) resolved a longstanding Circuit split regarding the scope of liability under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act of 1986 (CFAA), 18 U.S.C. § 1030 et seq. As we previewed last year, Van Buren addressed whether a person “exceeds authorized access” within the meaning of the CFAA when accessing information on a computer for an improper purpose. In an Opinion authored by Justice Barrett, the Supreme Court ruled, 6-3, that the CFAA does not cover those who have improper motives for obtaining computerized information they are otherwise authorized to access. …
Continue Reading Supreme Court Narrows The Scope of Liability Under The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act
The protection and retention of confidential information and trade secrets permeate nearly every transaction. Employment-law successor liability presents a substantial risk in transactions even when purchase agreements seemingly contain protective language. The general rule that an asset buyer does not assume a seller’s liabilities does not necessarily apply in the employment context, at least not in all cases. Targeted labor and employment diligence helps to identify potential areas of post-acquisition risk. Diligence also helps foster a greater understanding of the seller’s business and its workforce, making for a smoother post-acquisition integration effort. Identifying key underlying trade secrets and efforts to safeguard those trade secrets leading up to the transaction, and ensuring appropriate agreements are in place post-transaction to protect such trade secrets, are critical elements to the due-diligence process.
Continue Reading The Critical Nature of Employment and Trade Secret Diligence in Corporate Transactions
Whether under the federal Defend Trade Secrets Act (“DTSA”) or under state law uniform trade secrets acts (“UTSA”), assessing monetary damages in trade secret misappropriation cases is rarely easy. By definition, trade secrets lose their value once they lose their secrecy, but the lost value is often difficult to monetize. Calculating damages for misappropriation should account for the lost value of the trade secret “asset,” but courts often lose sight of this calculus in fixing damages. Lost profits, unjust enrichment, and reasonable royalties are common measures of damages in trade secret misappropriation cases, but there is another rarely considered measure of damages: the diminution in value of a plaintiff’s trade secret caused by the misappropriation. Damages for the diminution in value of a trade secret are a form of compensatory damages, though some courts will grant injunctive relief due to the difficulty in valuing the diminution of trade secrets. Aerodynamics Inc. v. Caesars Entm’t Operating Co., No. 2:15-cv-01344-JAD-PAL, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 129588, at *1 (D. Nev. Sep. 24, 2015). DTSA (and most UTSA statutes), of course, recognize compensatory damages as a viable theory. 18 U.S.C. § 1836(b)(3)(B). When courts have assessed trade-secret diminution theories, they have emphasized the critical importance of a quality expert and an almost asset-sale like economic valuation of the trade secrets.
Continue Reading Diminution in Value As A Measure of Damages for Trade Secret Misappropriation
On September 2, 2020, the Fifth Circuit declined to void a fee award of nearly $2.3 million in favor of an employer that had prevailed on its trade secret theft claim against its former employee, because the employee willfully failed to comply with the bankruptcy court’s “extremely explicit” order regarding his objections to the award.
Continue Reading Fifth Circuit Affirms Attorney’s Fee Award of $2.3 million in Misappropriation Case Against Former Employee who Failed to Comply with Court’s Objections Order
As if 2020 hasn’t caused enough hardship and headaches for employers already, the FBI and U.S. Cybersecurity Infrastructure Security Agency (“CISA”) recently issued a joint Cybersecurity Advisory Alert warning employers about the rise in voice phishing, or “vishing,” scams targeting remote workers. …
Continue Reading Cybercrime 2020 – The Rise of “Vishing”
For the first time, the Supreme Court has agreed to review the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA). The Court’s initial review of the CFAA comes in the wake of a federal circuit split as to whether the statute can only be deployed against hackers and unauthorized users of electronic systems, or also against authorized users who use the information for unauthorized purposes. The Court’s decision may significantly affect not only how law enforcement uses the CFAA, but also whether civil litigants, such as employers, may use the CFAA to defend against unauthorized employee activities.
Continue Reading U.S. Supreme Court Case Preview—Van Buren v. United States: Does Use of a Computer for an “Improper Purpose” Violate the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act?