Fast-food franchisees’ agreements to not poach employees could have pro-competitive benefits and may not always result in antitrust violations, the Department of Justice said.

The DOJ filed its statement of interest March 7 with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington, which will rule on three separate lawsuits filed by employees of Carl’s Jr., Auntie Anne’s, and Arby’s franchises. The government uses the statement to assert its arguments without being a party to the lawsuits.

The employees filed the lawsuits last year, alleging that the fast food franchisees’ no-poach agreements prevented them from switching job and suppressed...