New California Laws for 2022: What Employers Should Know

California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed several laws in 2021 that are impacting or will impact how employers interact with and manage their employees. From confidentiality and nondisparagement provisions in settlement agreements to production quotas in warehouses, we examine the laws that have gone into effect and which laws employers need to begin preparing for over the next one to two years.

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Ninth Circuit Vacates Injunction Against California Ban on Businesses Which Forced Workers to Submit to Arbitration Agreements

A divided three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the January 2020 preliminary injunction against enforcement of Assembly Bill 51 (AB 51), and upheld portions of the law that prohibited employers from making arbitration agreements a condition of employment. As a result of this decision, the Ninth Circuit has resurrected California Labor Code § 432.6, that bars businesses from requiring workers to arbitrate job-related claims. However, the court invalidated portions of AB 51 imposing civil and criminal penalties for mandating arbitration in violation of § 432.6.

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Amendments to the Illinois Freedom to Work Act: Significant Changes Coming to Illinois Noncompete and Nonsolicitation Agreements

While restrictive covenants abound in the employment landscape, the Illinois legislature is shoring up efforts to rein in the use of such agreements. The latest push? A bill to amend the Illinois Freedom to Work Act to expand the ban on noncompetes to a larger population of workers and provide certain rights to employees who are asked to sign noncompete and nonsolicitation agreements as a condition of employment. With Gov. J.B. Pritzker poised to sign that bill, employers should begin evaluating how those amendments will impact their use of noncompete and nonsolicitation agreements and what changes will be necessary to comply with the new law.

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The Pennsylvania Supreme Court Strikes Down a No-Hire Agreement as an Unreasonable Restraint on Trade

Recently, in Pittsburgh Logistics Systems, Inc. v. Beemac Trucking, LLC, No. 31 WAP 2019, — A.3d –, 2021 WL 1676399 (Apr. 29, 2021), the Pennsylvania Supreme Court found that a no-hire provision that was ancillary to a services contract between two businesses was an unreasonable restraint on trade and was therefore not enforceable. In ruling on this matter of first impression, the Court identified several important factors that employers should consider before entering into a no-hire provision that places restrictions on the movement of their employees.

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Navigating the American Rescue Plan’s Employment-Related Provisions

On March 12, 2021, the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARP) was signed into law, providing an estimated $1.9 trillion stimulus package to address the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Some of the ARP’s key provisions include a number of employment-related sections that build upon prior legislation to create a scaffold of employer obligations and worker entitlements arising from the pandemic’s impact on the U.S. economy.

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California Non-Compete and Trade Secret Catch-Up

Non-Competes

California is notorious in the non-compete world for its prohibition and extreme scrutiny of individual non-compete and other types of restrictive covenant agreements. These types of agreements between two businesses, however, have received less attention.

In August, the Supreme Court of California in Ixchel Pharma, LLC v. Biogen, Inc., 470 P.3d 571, 573 (Cal. 2020), examined an agreement between two businesses and found “that a rule of reason applies to determine the validity” of business-to-business non-compete agreements. While some commentary on Ixchel has examined the validity of business-to-business non-compete agreements, the larger focus of the Ixchel case was “whether contractual restraints on business operations or commercial dealings are subject to a reasonableness standard under [California Business and Professions Code] section 16600.” Id. at 581 (emphasis added). It is important to note that the Ixchel court reiterated California’s strong position that agreements not to compete related to the termination of employment are invalid and not subject to a reasonableness test. Id. at 583-584. The Ixchel court adopted the reasonableness standard from the Cartwright Act (California’s antitrust law which generally assesses whether an agreement promotes or suppresses competition) for application to business-to business non-competes and further stated that its decision potentially affects all California contracts “that in some way restrain a contracting party from engaging in a profession, trade, or business.” Id. at 581, 588.

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