Employers in San Bernardino and across California try to get employees to sign non-compete agreements because they invest time and money in training in developing their employees. The counter-argument that employees make is that they have the right to earn the best living they can. Employees shouldn’t be at the mercy of an employer who doesn’t want to pay higher wages, more benefits, or give the employee better work opportunities.
Employees in San Bernardino should know that California has a new law that voids any contract that restrains anyone from working in any lawful business, trade, or profession. The law is part of the California Business and Professions Code. This means that employers can’t force employees to sign non-compete clauses.
Employee rights to work in competing jobs
In San Bernardino, employers can’t stop an employer from working in a new job based on a non-compete clause. Employers can’t even stop a worker from going to a new job if they reasonably believe the employee will take customer client lists or trade secrets with them to the new job. The employer must wait until an actual violation of trade secrets takes place to file a lawsuit – and that lawsuit must relate to the information taken not the employee’s right to work in a new job.
Employees who are fired because they won’t sign a non-compete clause can file a wrongful termination case, against their employer. With the help of experienced San Bernardino legal counsel, they can:
- Demand job reinstatement
- Back pay, back benefits, and any other income damages
- Legal fees
Employees who are being pressured to sign a non-compete clause should seek legal counsel. Legal counsel can also help if an applicant is being denied a job because he/she won’t sign the non-compete contract.
Finally, every employee has the right to contest any effort by an employee to enforce a non-compete clause in an employment contract
The rights of San Bernardino employees to challenge non-compete clauses
As stated, San Bernardino employees can void any clause in a contract which forbids them from leaving the employer for a competitor or to start their own business. This wasn’t always the rule in California. In fact, in virtually all other states, non-compete clauses are legal.
Even when non-compete contracts were valid, California (and other states now) generally didn’t give the employee complete control over the employee. Non-compete clauses are generally considered a restraint on trade. Even when and where they are valid, there are two key restrictions that courts apply:
- A time restraint. Employers, where non-compete clauses are valid, must show that they are only stopping the employee from starting work elsewhere for a limited time. Restrictions of a year or less are generally valid. Longer restrictions are likely to be struck down.
- A distance restraint. Employers, where non-compete provisions are legal, must show that the distance requirement is reasonable. Generally, employer contracts that forbid an employee from working in another state or more than 50 miles away from the original employer will be considered unconscionable.
Several exceptions to restrictions on trade contracts
There are two areas where employers can restrict or limit the rights of employees to work in competing jobs.
- The first area is when owners of a business, partnership, or limited liability corporation sell their interest to a buyer. The buyer often may ask that, as a condition of the sale, the seller agree not to compete with the buyer. This limitation is usually upheld by San Bernardino courts – provided the restrictions are limited as to the time and place. The seller should generally, for example, be allowed to start a new business, in another state.
- The second area applies to the employer’s intellectual property including trade secrets and customer lists. The employer can’t stop the employee from moving to a new job. But, if the employee takes intellectual property from the first employer, the employer can file a claim for damages such as lost profits, against the employee and business who knowingly uses the information.
Additional areas of concern from San Bernardino employees
Employers are trying to avoid California’s new non-compete law in several ways. Two well-known ways are:
- Making the employee agree to give long-term notice that he/she will be leaving the company instead of short-term notice. Many employees won’t be able to move to a new job if they have to give long-term notice (such as 90 or 180 days). Employees have the right to challenge this type of agreement.
- Having the employee agree that disputes about non-compete clauses will be heard by the state where the company is headquartered or incorporated – a state that doesn’t have non-compete laws. These agreements should also be contested by the employee because they’re just efforts to avoid the California law.
The law in San Bernardino is certain. Employers can’t require or enforce non-compete clauses in employment contracts. Any employee who is being forced to question whether he/she should work in a competing contract should learn their rights from experienced employment lawyers. At the San Bernardino law offices of Stephen Danz & Associates, we’re ready to help you move to a new job and move on from the old one. To understand your employee rights, phone (877)789-9707 or fill out our contact form to schedule an appointment. Se Habla Espanol.