On April 13, 2020, the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice and the Bureau of Competition of the Federal Trade Commission issued a joint statement warning they are closely monitoring employer collusion.
The joint statement acknowledges that protecting consumers may require significant cooperation between government, private businesses and individuals. However, the DOJ and FTC affirm that they will protect competition for workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 response by enforcing the antitrust laws against those who seek to exploit the crisis.
Specifically, the joint statement warns that they are on the alert for employers, staffing companies and recruiters who might engage in collusion or other anti-competitive conduct that harms workers on the front lines, such as doctors, nurses and first responders, as well as those who work in grocery stores, pharmacies, distribution networks and warehouses, in addition to other essential service providers. The joint statement specifically warns against agreements to suppress or eliminate competition regarding (1) compensation, benefits, hours worked and other terms of employment; and (2) the hiring, soliciting, recruiting or retention of workers.
Additionally, the Procurement Collusion Strike Force, an interagency partnership created to combat antitrust crimes affecting procurement, grant and program funding is on high alert for collusive practices in the sale of COVID-19-related products to federal, state and local agencies.
Companies and individuals involved in the hiring, recruiting, retention or placement of workers should know that anti-competitive conduct runs the risk of civil liability, criminal liability or both.