The California Court of Appeal for the Fourth District recently refused to enforce a covenant not to compete against the former employee and selling shareholder of a video game company. In Fillpoint, LLC, v. Maas et al., Case No. G045057, 2012 Cal. App. LEXIS 914 (Cal. Ct. App. Aug. 24, 2012), the Court of Appeal determined that half of a two-part noncompete agreement entered into in the context of the sale of a business was unenforceable, despite the exception for such covenants found in Business and Professions Code Section 16601 (“Section 16601”). This case answers what had previously been an open question under California law: Whether an acquiring company can obtain a non-compete that begins to run upon termination of employment (as opposed to or in addition to a non-compete that begins to run upon closing) from a shareholder who becomes an employee of the buyer. See Hilb, Rogal & Hamilton Ins. Servs. v. Robb, 33 Cal. App. 4th 1812 (1995) (enforcing a noncompete agreement against a selling shareholder that commenced at termination of employment, without any discussion or analysis of whether using termination of employment as the trigger for a noncompete violates Section 16601).Continue Reading
While many have been enjoying well deserved summer vacations, the National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”) has been busy. In the past two weeks the NLRB has issued decisions regarding investigative confidentiality directives and the permissible scope of the well-recognized “at-will” statement.Continue Reading
California Court of Appeal Provides Clarification of Labor Code Section 206.5's Restrictions on Releases of Wage Claims
In the recent California Court of Appeal decision of Pulli v. Pony International, LLC, the court clarified that Labor Code section 206.5 prohibits an employer from requiring an employee to execute a release of a claim for wages only and does not prohibit the employer from requesting that the employee waive his right to a jury trial by agreeing to arbitrate his employment-related claims. Although the court refused to rule on whether the arbitration agreement itself was enforceable (even though it expressly held that the provision was not automatically unenforceable), the decision appears to be at least a small victory for employers and plain language statutory constructionists.Continue Reading
Employers with sales teams in California need to get ready. California has a new commission contract law, AB 1396, which takes effect January 1, 2013. Under AB 1396, which amends California Labor Code section 2751, employers who pay commissions to their employees are required to enter into written commission contracts with employees. The contract must describe the method by which commissions are computed and paid. Employers must also provide a copy of the signed contract to each employee, and get a signed receipt from each employee. That's the easy part. Here's the tricky part. Going forward, when a contract governing commissions expires without being replaced but the employee continues work, the terms of the “expired” contract will apply to commissions until the parties sign a new agreement or until the employment is terminated. As a result, it will be important to get new commission contracts in place before or when the old ones expire.Continue Reading
Silicon Valley Firms Settle DOJ Hiring Practices Charges, But Are No-Solicitation Agreements Per Se Illegal?
Ending an investigation launched more than a year ago, on September 24, 2010, the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice entered into an agreement with Google Inc., Apple Inc., Intel Corp., Adobe Systems Inc., Intuit Inc. and Pixar Animation settling charges that the companies' bilateral agreements prohibiting cold-calling of their employees violated Section 1 of the Sherman Act. In a complaint also filed on September 24th, the Division alleges that the companies compete for highly skilled technical employees and that their concerted behavior "reduced their ability to compete for employees and disrupted normal price-setting mechanisms that apply in the labor setting." U.S. v. Adobe Systems, Inc., Complaint, online. The Division contends the agreements are facially anticompetitive because "they eliminated a significant form of competition to attract high tech employees" and "substantially diminished competition to the detriment of high tech employees who were likely deprived of important information and access to better job opportunities."
A California Court of Appeal has recently held that a subsequent employer can be liable for wrongful termination in violation of public policy for firing a new employee when her prior employer attempted to enforce an unenforceable non-compete agreement.Continue Reading
Ninth Circuit Finds Employment Agreement Ambiguous As To Whether An Employee's "Ideas" Were Assigned To Employer
In Mattel, Inc. v. MGA Entertainment, Inc., the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the trial court's judgment awarding Mattel ownership rights to the Bratz brand of dolls. This decision was reached, in part, on a finding that the trial court erred in ruling that the employment agreement between Mattel and former employee Carter Bryant, assigned Bryant's "ideas" to Mattel.Continue Reading