When an employee leaves a company, the employer often wants to take steps to ensure that the employee does not offer his or her services to competing or similar businesses. The most common step an employer will try to take is to draft a non-compete clause in an employee’s contract, or attempt to get an employee to sign such an agreement in exchange for a severance package. However, non-competes are not valid or enforceable in California, regardless of what your employer might claim.
California Business and Professions Code section 16600 states in part that “[E]very contract by which anyone is restrained from engaging in a lawful profession, trade, or business of any kind is to that extent void.” This means that if your Los Angeles employer is trying to convince you that you have to sign a non-compete agreement in order to work for the company or in order to receive certain compensation, you need to contact an experienced plaintiffs lawyer today.
Non-compete clauses are considered null-and-void in California when in comes to employees. Terminating an employee for refusing to sign a non-compete clause would likely be grounds for a wrongful termination suit.
It is important to note that contractual clauses which protect “trade secrets” are still valid and enforceable in California, so long as your employer reasonably defines the trade secrets and does not use the term to circumvent the prohibition against non-compete clauses. While as a former employee you can be prevented from using specific information that you gathered from your previous position to offer an unfair advantage for a competing business, you cannot be prevented from working for a competing business altogether.
If you are an employee and you have questions about non-compete clauses, trade secrets or restraint of trade issues, contact a qualified attorney for assistance with any questions you may have.
For more information on non-compete clauses and wrongful termination lawsuits, contact the experienced trial lawyers at BIKLAW today.