Employees have the right to earn a living, to feed themselves and their families. Employers in California used to argue that they have rights to. Employers argued that they invest a lot of time, training, and money in employees and management workers. They shouldn’t have to worry about the employee leaving to work with a competitor. Employees counter that if employers want them to stay, the employer should pay them better wages and better benefits than competitors.
California has decided in favor of employees. The California Business and Professions Code now holds that employers can restrict the movement of employees to competitors. California now holds that:
“Except as provided in this chapter, every contract by which anyone is restrained from engaging in a lawful profession, trade, or business of any kind is to that extent void.”
San Diego employees now have the right to file lawsuits against employers who wrongfully fire them or fail to hire them because the employee won’t honor a non-compete clause. Employers generally cannot seek to enforce a non-compete clause.
Employers can’t claim that an employee shouldn’t be allowed to go to a competitor or that the employee should pay damages because the employer reasonably believes the employee may give the competitor trades secrets such as customer lists. The employer must wait until the employee discloses the information before it can file a legal claim for violating trade secret privacy.
The general principles behind non-compete clauses in San Diego employment contracts
In most states other than California, employers can force their employees to sign non-compete clauses and employers can enforce those agreements. However, employees in those states (and before the new law in California) can seek to hold non-compete clauses invalid if:
- The length of the clause was too long. Non-compete clauses are generally invalid if the employer can’t begin working with a competitor after a year or so.
- The geographical areas were too far. Employers shouldn’t be able to prevent an employee from working in another state or far away from the original employer’s business.
The California law means that employees no longer have to argue that the non-compete clause is too restrictive based on time or distance. Whatever type of job you do in whatever type of industry, you should have the right to assert that California law now makes non-compete clauses invalid.
Employee rights in non-compete situations
Employees can defend all claims that they must honor a non-compete clause. Additionally, they can, with the help of San Diego employment lawyers, file a lawsuit against any employer who:
- Fails to hire the applicant because he/she won’t sign a non-compete clause
- Fires an employee who won’t sign a non-compete clause
In wrongful termination cases, employees can seek:
- Job reinstatement or the right to be hired
- Lost income and lost benefits
- Legal fees
- Additional damages that may apply
A few exceptions to San Diego non-compete clauses
There are some situations where employers can restrict competition.
- Selling a business interest, partnership interest, or limited liability corporation. Buyers of these different interests can require that the seller agree not to compete with them. The restriction is subject to the conditions that the seller should be able to compete in a distant location and after a decent amount of time has expired.
- Enforcing proprietary rights. Employers can require that their employees not give customer lists, trade secrets, and other types of intellectual property to a competitor. While they generally have to wait until the employee violates the agreement, if the employer learns of disclosure, the employer can file a claim for damages based on the employment contract.
A few employer tricks to be aware of
San Diego workers should review with experienced employment lawyers their rights if an employer asks them to sign one of the following clauses:
- An agreement to give the employer 90 to 180 days’ notice that the employee is leaving the company – instead of the usual two weeks-notice.
- An agreement that the employment contract will be interpreted based on the laws of a different state where the employer has another office.
Generally, employees should not have to give long-term notice. Agreements to be bound by another state’s law (one that doesn’t void non-compete clauses) can also be contested.
The law in San Diego is precise. Non-compete provisions are void. If you lost your job or in danger of losing your job due to a non-compete clause, the San Diego law offices of Stephen Danz & Associates, can help you get justice. If an employer is seeking to enforce a non-compete clause, our employee rights lawyers are ready to help. To learn more about your rights, call us at (877)789-9707 or complete our contact form to make an appointment. Se Habla Espanol.