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Tech & Work

Did Google misuse non-compete agreements of DoubleClick employees?

Reportedly, Google managers asked DoubleClick employees to sign non-compete contracts and then laid them off a week later. Can they enforce these contracts?

The Web is abuzz with reports from some recently departed DoubleClick employees who are saying that Google managers asked them to sign one-year non-compete agreements and then laid them off one week later.

Some people are condemning Google for its devious behavior, while others say that Google may be evil, but these non-compete clauses are not enforceable, at least in California. It's true they are, for the most part, not enforceable in California (California Business and Professions Code Section 16600). However, the majority of DoubleClick's employees work in the offices in New York. So where does that leave them?

Non-competes in employment contracts for IT pros are becoming increasingly more common due to the amount of intellectual property involved. But the Google case raises the question of how much of a non-compete is enforceable.

What is a non-compete?

According to the University of Minneota Institute of Technology, non-compete agreements are:

"... either a separate agreement or a clause in an employee handbook that prohibits an employee from working in a related business in a designated area for a specific amount of time. "

Legal experts say that most non-competes don't make it to court. If they do, a judge can rule in favor of the non-compete if it can be proven that it's reasonably limited in time and space or necessary to protect a legitimate interest.

However, a lot of people adhere to non-competes either because they're not aware of the fact that they're not enforceable in some states or because they're just reluctant to pay a lawyer to help them fight the clauses. It's always worth at least checking out the laws in your state.

Have you had an experience with a non-compete? If so, what was the outcome?

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

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