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Feds May Seek Criminal Charges for No-Poach, ESG Issues, Attorneys Say

HR Dive

Nearly a year into the Biden administration, employers have received a few glimpses of federal regulators' enforcement priorities and the ways in which those enforcement areas intersect with HR.

Going into 2022, areas such as antitrust law and environmental, social and governance issues, or ESG issues, are particularly key, management-side attorneys with law firm Blank Rome said during a Dec. 7 webinar.


Regulators aim to preserve competition in the labor market

In July, President Joe Biden issued Executive Order 14036, aimed at promoting competition in the U.S. economy. The document focused heavily on antitrust issues affecting U.S. consumers, such as those regarding prescription drug prices and internet access costs, said William E. Lawler, partner at Blank Rome.

But the order also addressed broader antitrust issues directly relevant to the employment context, Lawler continued. One of the biggest pieces has to do with noncompete agreements, including those used by private companies. "The [Federal Trade Commission] has been instructed to see whether those should exist at all," Lawler said.


Are employers following through on ESG statements?

In the past year and a half, organizations large and small have published statements on environmental, social and governance issues, or ESG issues. This category of subjects ranges widely and can include hot-button topics like climate change as well as diversity, equity and inclusion, among others.

"ESG issues are headlines each and every day and at the forefront of the minds of most executives and investors out there now," said Paul H. Tzur, partner at Blank Rome, who noted the incentives and pressures employers face in showing the public their ESG plans and initiatives. But those statements also can attract the scrutiny of regulators.

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“Feds May Seek Criminal Charges for No-Poach, ESG Issues, Attorneys Say,” by Ryan Golden, was published in HR Dive on December 13, 2021.