Can an employer make you sign a document that prevents you from working for another company after youterminate your employment?

UPDATED: Jan 9, 2011

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Can an employer make you sign a document that prevents you from working for another company after youterminate your employment?

I work for a church. They are demanding to have control over what church employment I accept after I quit or and terminated from them. The restrictioncovers a 75 mile radius. I work in Richmond and live in San Francisco. There are several churches in San Francisco who want to hire me. But I am to not accept employment there after I leave the Richmond church. Can they do that?

Asked on January 9, 2011 under Employment Labor Law, California


M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 12 years ago | Contributor

What you are being asked to sign is a "non-compete" agreement.  And in CA, such agreements are a violation of state law.  Yet many employers are unaware of this fact since non-compete agreements are legal in virtually every other state. However, there are 2 exceptions to this general rule, but neither would seem to apply to your case.  They are: (1) non-compete agreements are enforceable for partnerships; and (2) non-compete agreements are enforceable when a person is selling their ownership interest in a company.

Note:  A company can prevent the use of its trade secrets, but it cannot prevent fair competition.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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