The global COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact employers and their employees’ work activities in a variety of ways. Millions of workers have been terminated, laid off or furloughed. Companies have shifted to remote workforces either partially or completely. Courts around the country continue to grapple with suspended or stayed proceedings. This pandemic is presenting some unique challenges and complications to many areas of the law, including restrictive covenant law, as discussed in this COVID-19-themed edition of The Restricting Covenant Series.
The global coronavirus pandemic has had a multitude of effects on how employers conduct business and manage their workforces. But as employees start to return to work, employers must be mindful of how to address those who leave and potentially violate their noncompetition agreements. As we settle into the “new normal,” the Restrictive Covenant team with Faegre Drinker’s Labor & Employment group has identified four considerations for employers seeking to enforce restrictive covenants and protect trade secrets.
A recent Delaware Chancery Court opinion has elucidated Delaware’s approach to judicially modifying, or “blue-penciling,” overly broad noncompete agreements and deferring to parties’ choice of law provisions. The case, FP UC Holdings, LLC, et al. v. James W. Hamilton, Jr., et al., C.A. No. 2019-1029-JRS (Del Ch. Mar. 27, 2020), highlights the importance of drafting well-tailored restrictive covenants, and shows that even in Delaware – where employers often have been reassured by the safe harbor of courts’ relative willingness to blue-pencil problematic agreements and apply Delaware law to fact patterns that have developed in other states – employers must make careful drafting and choice of law decisions. It also emphasizes that if an employer’s intent is to litigate in Delaware, the employer should do so from the beginning, without acquiescing to another court’s jurisdiction.
The most recent installment of the Restricting Covenant Series was inspired by the Jeopardy! tournament “The Greatest of All Time,” where champion Ken Jennings edged out two other competitors to win the million-dollar prize. So, for the crossword and quiz show enthusiasts, here is the clue in the form of an answer (and the subject of this article): This 17-letter word means to cut out the middleman in connection with a transaction. Correct response: What is “disintermediation”? What does disintermediation have to do with noncompete agreements? Read on.
There are many notable east coast-west coast rivalries. In sports (Celtics versus Lakers basketball), in leisure (Atlantic versus Pacific beaches), or in food (Shake Shack versus In-N-Out Burger), to name a few. With respect to restrictive covenants, the conflict between Delaware, which is generally considered a “pro-enforcement” jurisdiction, and California, which is generally considered an “anti-enforcement” jurisdiction, definitely stands out in the crowd. This installment of the Restricting Covenant Series looks at the competing views of the Golden State and The First State’s on the enforceability of restrictive covenants, and the critical importance of conducting a “choice of law” analysis to settle this feud.
As we have previously discussed, there is an ongoing trend of states prohibiting the use of non-compete agreements in certain situations, including with lower-wage workers. Maine and New Hampshire are the most recent examples.