Watch for These Documents That Your Employer May Make You Sign
When companies ask you to sign an employment agreement, that employment agreement may have a number of provisions that go beyond just your employment with the company. You may see a number of provisions, covenants, terms, and paragraphs, that seemingly address important things.
Here is a short rundown of some of the more common things that employers try to get employees to agree to in employment agreements, and what they really mean for you.
Noncompete Agreements – This is an agreement that prevents you from working for a competitor after your employment with your current employer ends. These usually say you can’t work in a given geographic location, for a given time period.
Although legal in many states, these are not legal in California—even if you signed one, and even if your employer is headquartered or incorporated in a state where they are legal. They are not enforceable, even if your noncompete agreement has a “choice of law” clause that chooses the law of a state where noncompete agreements are legal.
Confidentiality Agreements – As the name implies, these are agreements that require you to keep confidential any information in the confidentiality agreement. Usually, they will cover or protect something specific (i.e., “any information about customer lists”) as opposed to being more general (i.e., “any information about the company”). Either way, there may be stiff penalties to talking about whatever you’re not supposed to talk about.
Confidentiality agreements apply even to your close friends and family, in more informal situations, and they certainly apply to more public avenues, like social media or message boards.
Trade Secrets – Some agreements will require that you keep confidential any and all of your employer’s trade secrets that you may come into contact with or be privy to.
While there is nothing inherently wrong with signing a trade secret agreement, you do want to ensure or be aware that (1) the trade secrets are specifically defined, so you know what you are supposed to keep private, (2) that the things you may make, or create for your employer, aren’t considered your employer’s trade secrets, as opposed to yours, and (3) if customer lists are trade secrets, be aware that you won’t be able to access those customers at some point after your employment ended.
Arbitration and Waiver – Your employer may try to get you to waive certain legal claims against it, or else, waive your right to a jury trial, or waive your right to bring a class action. These agreements can severely restrict your rights, in the event that you are treated unfairly at work, and want to bring a lawsuit at any point.
While certain kinds of arbitration agreements (such as requiring arbitration for sexual harassment claims) are illegal, as a general rule, it remains legal for California employer to require employees to sign arbitration agreements.
Non disparagement – These are common and they restrict you from saying anything bad about your employer, to anybody else, publicly or privately. These are clear restrictions of your free speech—but they are legal, and can be enforced, so be wary before signing anything like this.
What are you signing at work? We can help you understand your rights as an employee, and enforce them if necessary. Contact the San Jose employment lawyers at the Costanzo Law Firm today.