BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Non-competes are clauses in employment contracts meant to stop employees from working for or starting with competing companies within outlined geographic and time limits.

Hodgson Russ litigation partner Jody Galvin said the agreements are traditionally legislated by states.

"The real idea is that if someone is subject to a non-compete that it would bring some competitive advantage to their new employer and in most low wage or low salary jobs, that's just simply not the case," she said.

Last week, the Federal Trade Commission issued a final rule broadly banning the majority of non-competes. The soonest it can take effect is late August, 120 days after its pending publication in the Federal Register and is already facing lawsuits.

"Right now we're telling employers it's a wait-and-see situation," Galvin said. "I think the appropriate steps to be taken right now would be to do an audit of who has non-competes in your organization and do you really want them."

Last year, the New York state Legislature passed its own non-compete ban but the governor vetoed the bill, arguing there should be exceptions for high-level earners. However, the bill's sponsor, state Sen. Sean Ryan, said the clauses not only are unfair to employees, but stifle economic development and innovation.

"It's a great decision by the FTC. As non-competes have crept their way into every aspect of our economy, it's become a restriction," Ryan said.

He said his office is going through the nearly 600-page ruling to decide if it still plans to bring new state legislation. The Democrat said the focus may be on health care and non-profit organizations over which the FTC does not have jurisdiction.

"We heard loud and clear from the doctors last year about how important it was for them not to have non-competes so we're going to look at what the FTC didn't regulate or didn't have power and then figure it out going forward," Ryan said.

The FTC ruling would immediately void existing non-competes except for senior level executives and companies would not be permitted to enter into or attempt to enforce any new agreements.