The Department of Justice Antitrust Division (DOJ) recently suffered significant losses in two criminal trials involving alleged criminal wage-fixing and related “no-poach” agreements by and between competitors. These were the first cases ever where the parties have proceeded to trial after the DOJ pursued criminal charges under Section 1 of the Sherman Antitrust Act predicated on such conduct. The Sherman Act includes penalties for criminal violations of the statute that can reach up to $100 million per violation for companies, and individual defendants can face $1 million fines and up to 10 years in prison. While the DOJ’s trial setbacks raise legitimate questions regarding the efficacy of its aggressive antitrust enforcement agenda — particularly in labor markets — the primary federal agency tasked with enforcing criminal violations of federal antitrust laws shows no signs of pulling back on similar investigations and prosecutions in the future.
Non-compete agreements between employers and their employees traditionally are governed by state law. But that did not stop the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice (DOJ) from recently filing a statement of interest encouraging a Nevada state court to consider federal antitrust principles to invalidate non-compete agreements between a large medical group and its physician-employees. Taken together with other recent actions by the president and federal enforcement agencies, the DOJ’s decision to file this statement signals a more aggressive approach to non-compete enforcement at the federal level.
In the wake of the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling in Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, which extended federal statutory protections to the LGBT community, many have wondered how that decision might impact other employment litigation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Tenth Circuit’s recent decision in Frappied v. Affinity Gaming Black Hawk, LLC, No. 19-1063 (10th Cir. 2020), suggests that, following Bostock, courts may begin to recognize new claims or even reconsider prior limitations on Title VII’s scope.
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