The COVID-19 pandemic has placed additional stressors on labor markets, particularly for healthcare workers and essential employees. While recognizing that employers, recruiters and staffing agencies may need—and be allowed to—cooperate in unprecedented ways to address current needs, on April 13, 2020, the US Department of Justice and US Federal Trade Commission issued a joint statement reinforcing their vigilance against collusion or anticompetitive conduct in labor markets and their willingness to pursue criminal and civil actions against violators.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is considering a rulemaking to address the use of non-compete provisions in employment contracts. On January 9, 2020, the FTC held a day-long workshop to start a public conversation on whether it should use its rulemaking power to take on this issue. The two Democratic Commissioners have expressed strong support for an FTC rulemaking, while the Republican Commissioners appear less open to a rulemaking effort.
If the FTC were to regulate non-competes, this would be a significant development in an area traditionally governed by state law. It remains unclear whether the FTC will move forward with a rulemaking and what a potential FTC rule would look like. However, the FTC workshop highlights growing concern about non-competes and their impacts on workers and labor markets.
Aerospace & Defense Series: Antitrust Risks for Aerospace and Defense Contractors in Employment Practices
As highlighted in a recent lawsuit, aerospace and defense contractors can face various antitrust risks when using certain tactics to prevent other companies from hiring their employees. See Hunter v. Booz Allen Hamilton Holding Corp., No. 2:19-CV-411 (S.D. Ohio). The plaintiff, a former intelligence professional who worked at the US government’s Joint Intelligence Operations Center Europe Analytic Center in Molesworth, England (JAC Molesworth), filed an antitrust suit on behalf of herself and a class of JAC Molesworth employees. She alleges that three military intelligence contractors—Booz Allen, CACI and Mission Essential—entered into illegal agreements not to hire one another’s employees. The complaint alleges that the three contractors each had Indefinite Delivery / Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) contracts and, prior to the alleged “no-poach” agreement, competed aggressively to hire employees with experience at JAC Molesworth to provide services under contract task orders. According to the complaint, these alleged no-poach agreements had the effect of suppressing the wages and benefits for skilled workers at JAC Molesworth because they stopped a bidding war for talent.