Noncompete Agreements

My late May post on Rent-A-PC, Inc. v. Robert March, et al.  discussed a Massachusetts federal district court case in which Judge O’Toole refused to issue a preliminary injunction enforcing noncompete provisions against two former employees of Rent-A-PC because their job responsibilities had substantially changed since their non-compete agreements had been signed.

In a decision issued by a Massachusetts Superior Court Judge in May, the court refused to issue a preliminary injunction on the same grounds. In Intepros v. Athy one defendant, Paul Athy, had advanced from branch manager to regional vice president. Relying on the hoary case of F.A. Bartlett Tree Expert Co. v. Barrington (1968), as well as several more recent cases, the court held that this change in job title responsibilities, as well as changes in pay, constituted a material change rendering the noncompete agreement void and unenforceable.

A second defendant, Anne Marie Canty, had been hired and fired twice, and had signed a noncompete agreement on the first two hires.… Read the full article

In this May 28th, 2013 decision by Massachusetts Federal District Court Judge George O’Toole, Rent-A-PC unsuccessfully sought to obtain a preliminary injunction against two former employees, and to enforce a confidentiality agreement against a third.

As to two of the employees, Rent-A-PC attempted to enforce a one year covenant not to compete. Judge O’Toole denied that motion, finding that the employees underwent several material changes to their employment, making it likely that their agreements had been abrogated. In analyzing this issue Judge O’Toole relied heavily on F.A. Bartlett Tree Expert Co. v. Barrington, a hallowed chestnut in Massachusetts noncompete case law dating back to 1968, but one that had been largely ignored until it was revived by a series of Superior Court cases in 2004.* Judge O’Toole’s reliance on F.A. Bartlett reinforces the impression that this doctrine has come full circle.

*These cases held that when the employment itself was the consideration for a noncompetition provision but the employee’s job had substantially changed, the provision was no longer enforceable.

Read the full article

Employee non-compete agreements are unenforceable under California statutory law, but that hasn’t stopped many California tech companies from finding a back-room work-around.

In October 2010 I wrote a short post discussing the FTC’s complaint that a number of California companies had illegally agreed not to solicit each others employees – so-called “no-poach” agreements.  (Apple, Google, Have You No Shame? Really!).

Now, two years later, the DOJ has filed a suit against eBay which, the suit claims, entered into a no recruit/no hire agreement with Intuit. Intuit is one of the companies caught engaging in this practice in 2010, and is subject to an agreement not to do so. To make matters even worse, according to the DOJ press release the agreement was entered into at the highest levels of both companies – Meg Whitman (then eBay’s CEO) and Scott Cook (CEO of Intuit).

These companies have huge in-house legal departments (not to mention Big Law outside counsel).  … Read the full article

It’s not often that a Massachusetts Superior Court decision gets national attention, but if you search for Invidia, LLC, v. DiFonzo (Mass. Super. Ct. Oct. 22, 2012) you’ll see that legal blogs around the country have picked-up on this obscure case.

Why? Because anything that involves the intersection of law and social media gets attention.

In this case, the issue that attracted attention was whether a hairdresser employed by a beauty salon in Sudbury, Mass. “solicited” her former employer’s customers in violation of a noncompete/non-solicitation agreement. What did Ms. DiFonzo do to trigger this claim? She posted news of her job change on her Facebook page. The court held neither posting news of her new salon, nor friending several customers, constituted solicitation.

Professor Eric Goldman has a lot to say about this case, including his question of how widespread litigation in the hair salon industry improves social welfare. And, he quite rightly gloats over the fact that an agreement like Ms.… Read the full article