A non-compete clause is a section of an employment contract that typically prohibits an employee from conducting work for a competitor or otherwise work in a similar business for a specific period of time. Sometimes, that time period extends beyond when the employment agreement is terminated.
The intent of a non-compete agreement is to protect the interests and sensitive information of a business. It prevents former employees from exposing trade secrets or stealing clients, customers, or intellectual property.
But it can be problematic for workers who are trained to work in a specific trade. A restrictive covenant to not compete can make it impossible for a worker to find employment in their field while the contract is in effect. However, non-compete agreements are not always enforceable.
Are Non-Compete Agreements Enforceable in California?
Non-compete agreements are void in the eyes of California courts. That’s because section 16600 of the California Business and Professions Code specifies that “every contract by which anyone is restrained from engaging in a lawful profession, trade, or business of any kind is to that extent void.”
California is the only state where non-compete contracts are not enforceable; in other states, if a non-competition agreement is considered reasonable, it can hold up in court.
But even though job-hopping is totally legal in the state, California law does contain some exceptions that help businesses protect themselves from unfair competition. A business may be able to:
- Enforce non-competition contracts against a business seller. This allows parties involved in the sale of a business to agree that the seller won’t continue to conduct business in the same market as the buyer.
- Enforce non-competition contracts against a former member of an LLC or business partner
- Prohibit former employees from revealing trade secrets. It’s unlawful for former employees to expose trade secrets, even without an employment agreement.
Even under these circumstances, the enforceability of a non-compete contract might come into question. The agreement needs to be necessary and reasonable, meaning it can’t be too broad in scope or geographical area or cover an unreasonable period of time.
San Diego Non-Competition Agreement Attorneys
If you’re looking for legal advice in San Diego, the lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP have the knowledge and experience to be able to help you come to an agreement or file a lawsuit against your former employer.
You shouldn’t be prohibited from growing your career in the field of your choice, which is why most non-compete contracts will be void in California. But if your circumstances are unusual and you need help invalidating your non-compete contract, call us today for a consultation or visit our law office to discuss your options.