Coyle Browne Law


Are Non-Competes Enforceable in California?

Understanding the dynamics and legality of non-compete agreements is crucial for employees navigating their careers in California. The attorneys at Browne Employment Lawyers are here to inform you that knowing exactly what these agreements are and when they are enforceable is essential, as it can directly affect your ability to secure future employment.

What Exactly is a Non-Compete?

A non-compete agreement is a contract used by employers to limit former employees’ professional actions once they leave the company. Such clauses aim to protect the company’s interests but can place significant restrictions on the employee’s career movements after leaving that company. Specifically, a non-compete might prevent you from:

  • Working for competitors within a certain time frame
  • Establishing similar business ventures in the same industry
  • Engaging with or soliciting former clients or customers of your previous employer
  • Revealing or capitalizing upon your former employer’s alleged trade secrets

These are just a few examples of what a non-compete could limit you from doing once your employment with that company is over.

Non-Competes Are Generally Illegal in California 

In California, non-compete agreements are largely considered unlawful as per the guidelines set forth in the California Business and Professions Code. This legal stance reflects a broader public policy favoring an individual’s right to pursue employment and entrepreneurial endeavors freely after leaving a company. The primary exception to this rule concerns contracts between business owners or partners.

It shall be unlawful to include a noncompete clause in an employment contract, or to require an employee to enter a noncompete agreement, that does not satisfy an exception in this chapter.

If you’re presented with a non-compete clause as part of your job offer, it’s important to recognize that such an agreement could potentially violate state labor laws. Employers insisting on these terms might not only be infringing upon workers’ rights but also placing themselves at risk for legal challenges.

Your Employer Cannot Fire You For Refusing to Sign a Non-Compete

In California, the illegality of non-compete agreements means your employer cannot legally terminate your employment for refusing to sign such a contract

If you find yourself being pressured to agree to a non-compete or facing termination threats over refusal, it’s important to understand that such actions are not permissible under California law. Employers who disregard these protections might face legal consequences for attempting to enforce what is essentially an invalid agreement in this state.

What to do if Your Employer is Pressuring You to Sign a Noncompete

If your employer is pressuring you to sign a non-compete agreement, taking informed and decisive action is essential. Here’s what you should do:

Understand the Document: Before anything else, thoroughly read and understand the document presented to you. Note any terms that seem restrictive or unclear.

Inform Your Employer of Its Illegality: Politely let your employer or potential employer know that California law generally prohibits non-compete agreements except in very limited circumstances. Often, employers may not be fully aware of these legal nuances.

Consult with a Lawyer: If discussing this matter directly with your employer does not resolve the issue or if employment pressure continues, seek advice from an employment law attorney in San Diego who specializes in labor law. They can provide guidance tailored to your situation and can help protect your rights concerning employment laws.

Navigating the challenges of non-compete agreements requires careful understanding and a proactive approach. Remember, you have rights under California law, and seeking expert legal advice is a critical step in protecting those rights. If you need help, contact us today to schedule a free consultation.

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