CA Web Workers: Compete, but with Caution


The California Supreme Court ruled unanimously this week that noncompete clauses in employment agreements that dictate who you can work for in your next job are against state law and unenforceable. This has implications for web workers in that state, many of whom operate under contracts with such a clause – but be careful, as the implications may not be as clearcut as they at first seem. If you’re working for Joe’s Startup Inc., you can safely quit on Monday and sign up with Bob’s Startup LLC on Tuesday. But keep these factors in mind:

  • Your contract may well contain other provisions concerning trade secrets and confidentiality that are not affected by this ruling.
  • A history of job-hopping and a trail of upset employers has never been a good idea.
  • If you’re an independent web worker with multiple clients, you may still find that your clients are happier with a noncompete clause in your contract – even if it’s unenforceable.
    • The bottom line: in California, at least, you have a right to work in your chosen industry, for whoever you want. But don’t treat this ruling as carte blanche to steal intellectual property, or you may find yourself in a world of hurt.

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