Can I be made to sign an agreement restricting where I can be employed in the future?

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Can I be made to sign an agreement restricting where I can be employed in the future?

I just decided to quit my job; I gave my boss my 2 weeks notice. However, before I go she asked me to sign a paper saying that I won’t work in similar place of business and won’t give her recipes out (which are not even original or secret recipes). Anyone can come up with them. I do not have any contract with her nor have I sign anything previously. Am I required to sign this document? It is my understanding that my state doesn’t allow these type agreements. Furthermore, I have knowledge that she has never ask any of her previous employees to sign such document.

Asked on February 28, 2012 under Employment Labor Law, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

California does generally disallow noncompetion agreements. However, nondisclosure or confidentiality agreements are legal and enforceable. Therefore, it would seem that the employer could not restrict you from working in a "similar place of business," but could--IF you signed the agreement (see below)--prevent you from disclosing her recipes.

You can't be forced to sign the agreeement at this point, though nothing stops your employer from asking or from trying to make it worthwhile for you to do so--for example, she could offer you some severance pay if you'd sign a nondisclosure/confidentiailty agreement. But the only leverage she has to get you to sign if  you don't want to at this juncture is she could terminate you immediately if you don't sign, rather than letting you have your two weeks; but if  you're willing to accept that, she can't make you sign.


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