Christine Malafi chairs the firm’s Corporate department, one of the most robust teams in the New York region. Her practice focuses on mergers and acquisitions, corporate governance, routine and complex transactions, labor and employment issues, and other business matters, as well as municipal, insurance coverage, and fraud issues. She routinely represents buyers and sellers in multimillion dollar transactions (from technology companies to manufacturers to healthcare businesses) and serves in a general counsel role for many of the firm’s internationally-based clients.
In her role leading CMM’s busy Corporate and Labor & Employment practices, Malafi has seen her fair share of non-compete agreements.
“Traditionally, these type of agreements have been used to protect an employer’s interests with respect to specialized matters, trade and business secrets, and highly valuable information (such as customer lists), prohibiting certain employees from working for a rival company for a specific amount of time after leaving employment,” Malafi said. “However, the role of these agreements has evolved, and the New York State Attorney General’s office is pushing back.”
“Over the past year, AG Schneiderman’s office has pursued numerous investigations into the use of non-competes by New York employers, and the findings have shown that an increasing number of employers are requiring low-wage, unskilled workers to sign such agreements, often restricting the employee’s ability to find work after leaving the company,” she said.
“Enforceability of non-compete agreements in New York State has been highly litigated, with courts declining to enforce them unless they are narrowly tailored and reasonable in terms of the length of time, geographic scope, restricted activities, and employer’s industry,” Malafi noted. “The focus of a non-compete should be to protect the employer’s business, not to unnecessarily and unreasonably restrict an employee from earning a living after leaving employment.”
“Against this changing landscape, I tell my clients to take this as an opportunity to review their existing agreements and update their hiring policies,” advised Malafi. “I encourage them to do away with blanket policies requiring all employees, regardless of skill and pay level, to sign non-competes. Instead, employers should assess each employee and position individually, considering possible access to proprietary information, whether specialized skills are needed in a specific job, and whether there is a legitimate business interest in barring an employee from working for a competing company after he or she departs.”
Malafi has earned an AV Preeminent Rating from Martindale-Hubbell. Among her many recognitions, she was named a top 2016 Woman in Law from Hofstra University School of Law and received a 2016 Butterfly Award from Girls Inc. of Long Island.
She is admitted to practice in New York, Connecticut, and before the United States Court of Appeals, Second Circuit; United States District Court, Southern District of New York; and United States District Court, Eastern District of New York.
Malafi earned a bachelor’s degree from Dowling College and a juris doctor, magna cum laude, from Touro College, Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center.
She is on the Board of Directors for the Girl Scouts of Suffolk County, the Board of Governors for Touro Law School, and the Board of Directors of Natasha’s Justice Project.
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