Navigating the FTC’s Non-Compete Ban: Strategies for Protecting Proprietary Information

Katherine M. Flett

By Katherine M. Flett



noncompeteAuthored by Katherine M. Flett with assistance from Jack Stiens, contributor

The FTC’s recent rule effectively banning non-compete agreements is set to take effect on September 4, 2024. Before the ban takes effect, employers who have qualifying non-compete agreements in place with their employees are obligated to provide explicit notice to current and former workers that their non-compete agreement is no longer in effect and may no longer be enforced against them. Given its potential to dramatically alter employer-employee relationships and the security of proprietary information, businesses should understand and take steps to mitigate the possible consequences of the ban before September.

There are several exceptions to the new FTC ban, the most significant being the “senior executive” exception. The rule defines “senior executive” as an employee earning more than $151,164 annually (inclusive of salary, commissions, nondiscretionary bonuses, and other nondiscretionary compensation) in a “policy-making position.” The FTC defines a “policy-making position” as: (1) the President, CEO, or equivalent; (2) any other officer (Vice President, Secretary, Treasurer, CFO, comptroller, or principal accounting officer) who has policy-making authority; or (3) or any other person who has policy-making authority. It is the third prong of this definition that will likely be left to the interpretation of courts around the U.S. The FTC estimates that this class of workers accounts for less than 1% of all employees.

While there are some other narrow exceptions to the rule, a vast majority of employer-employee relationships will be subject to the new FTC ruling. Predictably, there are already several lawsuits pending against the FTC seeking a nationwide stay and injunction against enforcement of the final rule.

Regardless, businesses should consider alternative tools to protect their proprietary information. One such tool is trade secret enforcement. Trade secrets can be any propriety information that derives value from its exclusivity from the general public/competitors, such as business strategies, manufacturing processes, and consumer data. Generally, trade secrets are protected as proprietary information as long as an employer takes “reasonable measures” against improper disclosure of them. Missouri has adopted the Uniform Trade Secrets Act, along with many other states, which prohibits the disclosure of trade secrets to third parties without consent. If successful in proving a claim under the Missouri Uniform Trade Secrets Act, a business can recover the actual loss caused by misappropriation, any unjust enrichment to the employee or former employee caused by misappropriation, punitive damages, and its reasonable attorneys’ fees. Injunctive relief is also an available remedy. Employers can implement confidentiality and nondisclosure agreements to further safeguard trade secrets and other sensitive information from being compromised by current and former employees.

Another tool is the use of non-solicitation agreements, which are unaffected by the FTC ruling. Non-solicitation agreements prevent former employees from soliciting business from a previous employer’s customers or soliciting other employees to leave employment. The terms of such agreements must be “reasonable” or they will be deemed unenforceable by the court. Typically, a non-solicitation agreement prohibiting an employee from soliciting customers they were in contact with while employed by the company for a period of two years is considered reasonable and enforceable. However, unlike a non-compete agreement, a non-solicitation agreement does not prevent a former employee from seeking job opportunities with competitors. Regardless, non-solicitation agreements, when used alongside other measures, can help fill the void left by the elimination of non-competes by protecting important customer lists or preventing the poaching of talent at your company.

As the ban on non-compete agreements gets closer, it is critical for businesses to consult with legal counsel to navigate this new ban effectively.

Posted by Attorney Katherine M. Flett with assistance from Jack Stiens, law clerk. Flett is a member of the litigation team whose primary focus is on assisting clients in business litigation, employment law, real estate, insurance defense, and bankruptcy matters. Stiens, law clerk, is a student at the University of Missouri School of Law and a graduate of the University of Missouri-Columbia.

Understanding the FLSA’s New Salary Test

Ruth Binger

By Ruth Binger



overtime payThe Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) sets minimum wage and overtime requirements for employees. The overtime requirement requires employers to pay at least one-and-one-half times the hourly rate of the employee for each hour the employee works over 40 hours in a regular work week.

However, certain employees may be exempt from the overtime requirements if they qualify as meeting three tests:

  1. Job Duties Test;
  2. Salary Level Threshold Test, and
  3. Salary Basis Test.

The FLSA does not define those tests. Instead, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) is directed to define the exemptions and modify criteria from time to time with regulations.

The Job Duties Test specifies certain duties that the employee must perform if the employee is to be classified as an executive, administrative, professional, outside salesperson, or a computer-related occupation. Additionally, highly compensated employees are also eligible if they fit within a specific job duty test. These employees must all meet the Salary Level Threshold Test and be paid a predetermined and fixed salary that is not subject to reduction (Salary Basis Test). Continue reading »

It’s Now Easier to Prove Discrimination With Job Transfer or Other Change in Terms or Conditions of Employment

David R. Bohm

By David R. Bohm



discriminationJaytona Muldrow was a plainclothes sergeant in the St. Louis City Police Department’s specialized Intelligence Division. In connection with her duties in the Intelligence Division, Muldrow was deputized as a Task Force Officer with the FBI and was granted FBI credentials and an unmarked take home car. When a new captain was assigned to supervise the Intelligence Division, the Police Department transferred Muldrow from the Intelligence Division (at the new captain’s suggestion) to a uniformed position in the City’s 5th District, supervising the day-to-day activities of neighborhood patrol officers. While Muldrow’s rank and pay remained the same, her responsibilities, perks and schedule did not. She no longer worked with high-ranking officials in the police department, lost her FBI credentials and the take-home car, and had to work weekends (while in the Intelligence Division she worked Monday through Friday).

Muldrow filed suit against the City of St. Louis under Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act in the federal District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri, claiming she was transferred because she was a woman. The District Court granted summary judgment in favor of the City, holding that Muldrow’s transfer did not cause her a materially significant disadvantage, as it did not result in a diminution of her title, salary or benefits and had caused only a minor change in her working conditions. The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the District Court.

In Muldrow v. City of St. Louis, issued April 16, 2024, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the decision, holding that it was not necessary to show that an injury resulting from an action taken by an employer because of an employee’s protected status (e.g., sex, race, religion, or national origin) resulted in significant injury. Instead, Justice Kagan, writing for a six-member majority of the Court, stated that “an employee must (only) show some harm from a forced transfer to prevail in a Title VII suit…” (emphasis added). This same standard of “some harm” will also apply to any other change in the terms and conditions of employment made as a result of the employee’s protected status. The other three justices each wrote opinions concurring in the result. Continue reading »

Contracts: The Importance of “Boilerplate” Clauses

Bryan J. Schrempf

By Bryan J. Schrempf



contractIn business, the word “boilerplate” is often a negative term. However, common contractual clauses, or “boilerplate” clauses, are often significant and helpful. They should not be overlooked or dismissed.

Attorneys’ Fees and Expenses

One common boilerplate clause relates to an aggrieved party’s ability to recover attorneys’ fees and expenses that they have incurred as the result of the other party’s breach of contract. Generally, U.S. courts follow the “American Rule,” which means that each party to a lawsuit will bear their own attorneys’ fees and costs, regardless of the outcome of the case. A common boilerplate clause allows for such an aggrieved party to recover the attorneys’ fees and costs that they have incurred because of the other party’s breach of contract.

Notably, the presence of such an attorneys’ fees clause can be particularly helpful even in cases of lesser value. For example, one party to a contract owes the other party $10,000 and refuses to pay. Employing an attorney to file suit to recover that $10,000 will be very expensive relative to the amount that might be recovered. In fact, if there is any complexity to the case, then hiring an attorney can quickly become prohibitively expensive – without an “attorneys’ fees” clause.

Providing Notice

Clauses relating to the methods for providing “notice” to the parties can also be helpful and significant.  They can determine to whom notice must be given, how the notice must be given, or when the notice is deemed given.

State Law Applied/State for Litigation

Often transactions or agreements will span multiple states. In such cases, helpful clauses include determining which state’s law will apply or in which state the dispute will be litigated. Continue reading »

Changes in Missouri Law Regarding Restrictive Covenants in Business Sales

Ruth Binger

By Ruth Binger



noncompeteAuthored by Ruth Binger with assistance from Kristina M. Stevenson, contributor

Recent changes in Missouri law have impacted the enforceability of restrictive covenants in the sale of businesses, particularly those involving business entities and owners. These modifications, detailed in Revised Statutes of Missouri (RSMo) 431.204, arguably reduce protections extended to business purchasers.

Effective August 28, 2023, a covenant prohibiting solicitation of employees between a business entity and an owner cannot extend beyond a two-year period following the termination of the owner’s affiliation with the entity. Essentially, this means that after two years from the sale of their business, an owner is permitted to solicit employees previously associated with the entity.

Moreover, the revisions have introduced more stringent conditions for covenants prohibiting the solicitation of customers. These non-solicitation covenants must now be limited to customers with whom the owner had prior dealings and cannot extend beyond five years after the owner’s termination of business ties with the entity. This adjustment opens the door for sellers to solicit customers they had not previously interacted with. Continue reading »

Employee or Independent Contractor Classification under the Fair Labor Standards Act Effective March 11, 2024

Ruth Binger

By Ruth Binger



worker classificationThe U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has modified the Wage and Hour Division Regulations to replace its 2021 analysis for determining whether a worker is an employee or independent contractor (Final Rule). The previous test gave greater weight to control and opportunities for profit and loss.

Effective March 11, 2024, under the Final Rule the employee or independent contractor classification determination will focus on the economic realities of the worker’s relationship and whether the worker is either economically dependent on the potential employer for work or is in business for himself. In short, is the worker dependent upon the business to which it renders services for work?

Economic dependence does not focus on the amount of income the worker earns, but rather whether the worker has other sources of income from other customers. To determine economic dependence, the DOL assesses seven factors and conducts a totality-of-the-circumstances analysis. No one factor carries more weight. The DOL looks at the working relationship, the workplace, and the particular industry.

Under the Final Rule, Section 795.105, DOL, uses the following tools and/or factors in its determination: Continue reading »

CTA Reporting Requirements Have Begun!

Corporate Law Practice Group

By Corporate Law Practice Group



beneficial ownership reportingReporting requirements for affected entities under the Corporate Transparency Act (“CTA”) went into effect January 1, 2024. In our article “Be Sure You’re Ready: The Corporate Transparency Act is Coming Soon!,”  we provided detailed information on the CTA’s applicability and reporting requirements. Now that the CTA is in effect and entities must report beneficial ownership, let’s take another look.

The Facts About the CTA

  • The CTA is a bipartisan act passed in 2021 by Congress to create a beneficial ownership information reporting requirement because many states, including Missouri, do not have requirements in place to collect beneficial ownership information of certain entities. An estimated 32.6 million entities are affected by the CTA.
  • For entities already in existence prior to January 1, 2024, that do not qualify for any of the 23 exemptions available, Beneficial Ownership Interest (“BOI”) Reports are due by December 31, 2024.
  • New entities formed in 2024 are subject to a 90-day BOI Report filing deadline (extended from the original 30-day deadline). Entities formed January 1, 2025, or later are subject to a 30-day BOI Report deadline.

How and What Does an Entity File?

  • An entity can file its own report – at no cost – on the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (“FinCEN”) website at https://boiefiling.fincen.gov/fileboir.
  • Required information to be filed for an entity includes the legal entity name, any trade names or dbas, the principal place of business address, and all taxpayer-identification numbers issued to the entity.
  • Owners of at least 25% of interest in the entity and those with substantial control of the entity must report their legal name (including middle name), home address, date of birth, unique identifying number from an accepted identification document (generally a state-issued driver’s license or passport), name of the state or jurisdiction of the identification document, and an image of the identification document.

Who Has Access to Filed Information?

  • FinCEN’s database of entities will not be freely accessible to the public.
  • Federal, state, local, and tribal officials, as well as certain foreign officials, may submit a request for information for authorized activities related to national security, intelligence, and law enforcement. If a reporting company consents, certain financial institutions may be granted access in certain circumstances. For more information on access, please visit FinCEN’s website at https://fincen.gov/boi.

Cue the Scammers Continue reading »

What to Do If You Might Have Been Ineligible for the Employee Retention Tax Credit Claim

Corporate Law Practice Group

By Corporate Law Practice Group



covid-19 tax creditsThe COVID-19 Pandemic was cause for many new programs to be created by the U.S. government to keep businesses afloat and employees retained in unprecedented times. One of these programs was the Employee Retention Tax Credit (“ERC”) which incentivized employers to retain employees while business was down. The program was available regardless of the size of the employer and included tax-exempt organizations.

To be eligible for the ERC, employers had to (1) be either fully or partially suspended by government order due to COVID during the calendar quarter or (2) have gross receipts below 50% of the comparable quarter in 2019.

The IRS began sending out letters in December 2023 to more than 20,000 taxpayers who received disallowed ERC claims. Letter 105 C, Claim Disallowed is being sent to a first group of taxpayers because the entities either (1) did not exist during the eligibility period (March 13, 2020, through December 31, 2021), or (2) did not have paid employees during the ERC’s applicable time period (ERC is a credit against qualified wages).

Letter 105 is being sent out to taxpayers prior to payment in an effort by the IRS to help ineligible taxpayers avoid audits, repayments, and penalties. Many employers were encouraged to file ERC claims by “promoters” who received monetary commissions based on approval. Issuance of a disallowance letter prevents promoters from receiving funds to which they are not entitled. Continue reading »

Five Common Mistakes Business Owners Make When Organizing an LLC in Missouri

Katherine M. Flett

By Katherine M. Flett



llc1. Not Having an Operating Agreement

An Operating Agreement (“OA”) is a crucial document that establishes the ownership of the LLC, the rights and duties of the company’s members and managers, and the operating rules for the company. While the OA is not filed with the Missouri Secretary of State (“SOS”), it is required by law. Without an OA, your LLC runs the risk of losing its limited liability protection and the members of the LLC could be held personally liable.

2. Not Updating the Operating Agreement

The OA establishes the ownership of the LLC, how the LLC conducts its business, and how it is taxed.  There are several ways for an LLC to be taxed, including as a disregarded entity or an S-corporation.  Including this in the OA and acting in accordance with the OA are very important.  If tax status, ownership, or any other portion of the OA changes, it should be promptly amended to reflect the change(s).

3. Not Registering a Fictitious Name Used By the LLC

If an LLC transacts business in a name other than the legal entity’s name, that name must be filed as a fictitious name (also known as a “d/b/a” or “doing business as”) with the SOS. A fictitious name is any name business is transacted under other than the true name of the legal entity. For example, if the legal name of the LLC is “Flett Enterprises, LLC” and it owns a restaurant named “Andy’s BBQ,” the owner should register “Andy’s BBQ” as a fictitious name. If not, the owner(s) risk personal liability for operating “Andy’s BBQ” in their individual capacity. Continue reading »

Planning for the Incapacity or Death of a Business Owner

Corporate Law Practice Group

By Corporate Law Practice Group



are you readyAs a business owner, you are used to making plans. You have had to make plans since day one – plans to get your business off the ground, plans to increase inventory, plans to take on employees. . . plans, plans, plans. One plan that some business owners don’t think about until it’s too late is what happens to their business at the death of one of the owners.

Not planning is, in fact, a plan. If no documents are in place to transfer ownership at death, the deceased owner’s probate estate is the recipient of the business interests and the business is tied up in probate court. How can you avoid this happening to your business?

First, check your corporate governance documents. Depending on the type of entity you own, this could be your operating agreement, shareholder agreement, bylaws, or a buy-sell agreement. These documents could outline any restrictions on the transfer of ownership interests. Some of the more common transfer restrictions are to other members or shareholders, revocable trusts, or family members.

Typically, two of the simpler ways to transfer ownership interest in an entity is to assign the interest during the owner’s life to a revocable trust or, alternatively, assign the interest at the death of the owner to the owner’s trust. The terms of the trust can then control where the ownership goes, how it gets to the desired beneficiaries, and who is in charge. Make sure to update operating agreements or bylaws to reflect those changes any time an assignment of ownership occurs. Assignments of ownership interests at death can also be made to other individuals provided the terms of the entity’s operating agreement or bylaws allow for this transfer. Continue reading »

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