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DOJ, FTC Enforce Antitrust Laws to Protect Physicians, Nurses, and Other Essential Workers

By Melanie Blackman  
   April 29, 2020

A recently issued joint statement announces diligent efforts to protect workers who are on the front lines of COVID-19 from harm due to collusion and other anticompetitive conduct from employers.

In a joint antitrust statement, The Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Bureau of Competition of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) have announced that they will be enforcing antitrust laws against anticompetitive conduct that seeks to take advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic to harm essential workers in the labor market.

"COVID-19 does not provide a reason to tolerate anticompetitive conduct that harms workers, including doctors, nurses, first responders … among other essential service providers on the front lines of addressing the crisis," according to the statement.

The joint statement says that the pandemic may result in "unprecedented" partnerships between federal, state, local, and tribal governments; private businesses; and individuals to protect essential workers.

The DOJ and FTC agencies are on alert for those who engage in collusion or other anticompetitive conduct in labor markets, including staffing agencies who provide medical travel and locum placement.

According to a press release, challenges to anticompetitive conduct in labor markets by the DOJ and FTC agencies include:

  • Unlawful wage-fixing and "no-poach" agreements
  • Anticompetitive non-compete agreements
  • Unlawful exchange of competitively sensitive employee information
  • Inviting other individuals and companies to collude
  • Actions and conduct that harms competition

"The Division will use its enforcement authority to ensure that companies and individuals who distort the free market for labor are held to account," said Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim of the DOJ’s Antitrust Division.

Melanie Blackman is the strategy editor at HealthLeaders, a Simplify Compliance brand.

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