Are non-compete agreements enforced in the state of California?

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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Are non-compete agreements enforced in the state of California?

I was offered a job with a company bases in Orange County and they are requiring
me to sign a non-compete agreement. My question is should I sign it, is it
enforceable, and what are the ramifications if I do sign it?

Asked on December 20, 2018 under Employment Labor Law, California


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

Most states enforce noncompetes, and when they do, they are enforceable as per their plain terms, absent "overreaching." By that, I mean that since the purpose of a noncompete is to prevent an ex-employer from being harmed by competition from its ex-employee, a noncompete can generally restrict you from working for an actual competitor (so someone selling the same goods or services to the same customer base) for a reasonable period of time (generally between 6 months and one year). If it is broader, longer, etc. than that and unfairly restricts your ability to work at all, a court will generally--if the ex-employer sues you to enforce the agreement--cut it back (often called "blue penciling" it for some reason) to more reasonable levels. To the extent a noncompete is valid and enforceable, if you violate it, you can be sued for monetary compensation and/or a court order barring you from working for the competitor or competing in your name/with your own business.
CA will not generally enforce noncompetes, so IF you try to compete in CA (work for a CA competitor), the odds are good the court will not enforce. That will not help you if you compete in another state, however. And there are certain "non-compete-like" agreements that CA will enforce, like those barring you from performing work for the ex-employer's customers or clients.

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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