How the Washington Attorney General Is Changing Franchise Agreements Nationwide and What It May Mean For You

Kathy Van Voorhees

By Kathy Van Voorhees



Co-authored by Kathy Van Voorhees and Matt Goodman

The state of Washington has a reputation as a worker-friendly state with some of the highest minimum wages in the country. So it’s no surprise that Washington Attorney General Robert Ferguson has been aggressively pursuing large corporate franchisors that include no-poach clauses in their franchise agreements. What is surprising is that he’s affecting franchise agreements across the U.S.  (A “no-poach clause” is language in the franchise agreement that prevents a franchisee from hiring current and former employees of another franchisee or its franchisor.)franchise

Businesses are always trying to gain competitive advantages by pushing the boundaries of regulations that promote fair competition. For example, many workers have non-compete clauses in their take-it-or-leave-it employment agreements. These clauses prevent a  competitive labor market which creates a wage-fixing affect and triggers anti-trust laws. As a result, many courts have determined that non-compete clauses for employees without knowledge of trade secrets and with little ability to sway customers to follow them are unenforceable. Courts have refused to enforce non-competes for yoga instructors, camp counselors, and fast food employees.

Many franchisors include “no-poach” clauses in their franchise agreements. The terms restrict franchisees from poaching each other’s employees by allowing the franchisor to terminate the franchise of any franchisee who hires a worker employed by another franchisee or its franchisor. No-poach agreements and non-compete agreements both discourage employees from leaving their current employer. Continue reading »