When you are faced with wrongful termination, an attorney who has regularly advised and represented clients in employment law matters can help you achieve a cost-effective and timely resolution. To learn more about our legal services, contact our firm to schedule a consultation and case evaluation.
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The law on wrongful termination is complex. If you have been fired from your job or retaliated against in another way, potential outcomes often depend on the facts of your case. The best way to learn about these potential outcomes and about your options is to talk with an attorney. Contact the law firm of trial attorney Anthony J. Poidmore in Roseville, California, by completing an online contact form or calling 916-367-0802.
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Anyone who has ever been dismissed from a job thinks it is unfair. However, under California and federal laws, unfair termination is not necessarily wrongful. Wrongful termination is a legal term that refers to a firing that happened illegally.
Wrongful termination takes many forms. It happens when employees are fired because of discrimination based on race, age, sex, disability, religion, sexual orientation or national origin. It also occurs due to retaliation for reporting an employer's illegal act (this is often called whistleblowing), or in violation of an employment contract.
Some employers ask their employees to sign non-compete agreements. Non-compete agreements may prohibit employees from working in certain geographical regions or sectors of an industry once they have left the company. Employers do this for a variety of reasons, including protecting their trade secrets and customer goodwill. Courts do not always uphold non-compete agreements, however. Limits on the right to earn a living are closely scrutinized. For answers to your questions about non-compete agreements, contact an employment law attorney at Anthony J. Poidmore, Attorney at Law in Roseville, California.
Requirements for Valid Covenants Not to Compete
To be considered valid, an agreement (or covenant) not to compete must:
- Be given in exchange for some benefit at the time it is signed
- Protect a legitimate business interest of the employer
- Be reasonable in scope, geography and time
Non-compete agreements typically must be supported by consideration — that is, the employee must receive something of value in exchange for the promise not to compete. If an employee signs a non-compete agreement in anticipation of beginning employment, the employment itself is sufficient consideration. If an employee signs the agreement after beginning employment, however, the mere promise of continued employment is not valid consideration. In this case, the employee must receive something else of value in exchange for the promise. Such additional consideration may consist of a promotion or another benefit that was not part of the original employment agreement.
Protection of Legitimate Business Interests
The goodwill that a business develops in its customers is one of its most important assets. An employer therefore may use non-compete agreements to prevent former employees from capitalizing on that goodwill to compete with the employer.
Likewise, an employer may use covenants not to compete to protect its confidential information. Confidential information includes trade secrets, which are information or processes that an employer keeps secret and that give the employer an advantage over its competitors.
Reasonableness of Restraint
In deciding whether to enforce a non-compete agreement, the court will balance the need to protect the employer's legitimate business interests with the burden the restriction would place on the employee. Courts are rarely willing to put the employee in a position of not being able to earn a living, but they also must take the employer's interests into consideration.
Covenants not to compete must be reasonable in duration and scope. The reasonableness of the duration will depend on the specific facts of the case. For instance, if the covenant is designed to protect confidential information, the duration should be no longer than the time that the information has value to the employer. The reasonableness of the geographical area will depend on the services provided by the employee and the importance of the services to the employer's business. Generally, courts will not allow a non-compete agreement to prevent an employee from working in a geographical area in which the employer does not do business.
If a court finds that a non-compete agreement is overbroad, it may narrow the scope and duration and enforce the agreement as modified. Alternatively, it may refuse to enforce the agreement entirely if it finds that it is intended to prevent legitimate business competition.
Speak with an Attorney
While employers have a right to protect customer relationships and confidential information, they must not exceed reasonable bounds when they make non-compete agreements. If you have signed a non-compete agreement that is causing problems — or if you have questions about a non-compete agreement that has been presented to you — contact an attorney at Anthony J. Poidmore, Attorney at Law in Roseville, California, to discuss your legal options.
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