Policy and Legal

Policy and Legal

Noncompete Ban Would Disrupt Manufacturing in the U.S.

The Federal Trade Commission’s vote this week to prohibit noncompete agreements between employers and their employees threatens manufacturing in the U.S., the NAM said Tuesday.

What’s going on: In a 3–2 vote Tuesday, commissioners finalized a rule that, like a draft version circulated last year, “would deem practically any noncompete clauses for paid staff, independent contractors and unpaid workers to be an unfair method of competition rendered unenforceable, and [would require] employers to tell current and former employees they’ve stopped enforcing them” (Law360, subscription).

  • The final rule is set to go into effect 120 days after it is published in the Federal Register, but lawsuits have been filed against it already, and additional legal action is expected.

What’s changed: One change made to the final rule following the receipt of more than 26,000 comments on it allows existing noncompete agreements with senior-level executives to remain in effect.

  • Another difference between the rule’s prior iteration and the final is to the ban’s sole exception. The draft “permitted noncompetes for individuals selling their business or a substantial stake of at least 25%.” That threshold is not in the final version.

Why it’s problematic: The rule “is unprecedented and threatens manufacturers’ ability to attract and retain talent,” said NAM Managing Vice President of Policy Chris Netram.

  • “In addition, [it] puts at risk the security of intellectual property and trade secrets—anathema to an industry that accounts for 53% of all private-sector R&D.”
  • A noncompete ban would disrupt the majority of U.S. manufacturing operations, a 2023 NAM survey found.

What’s next: The NAM is considering all options in response to the final rule and is in active discussion with congressional leadership and the relevant committees of jurisdiction.

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