Because California has a statute which makes employee non-compete agreements and covenants not to compete void, unenforceable, and otherwise unlawful, employers who try to use them violate California’s public policy. As a result, employees have a right to refuse to go along with employers’ violation of public policy, which includes refusing to sign a non-compete agreement.
Although an employer technically can fire an employee for refusing to sign a non-compete agreement or any contract with such a provision in it, a fired employee would probably have a strong case for wrongful termination in violation of public policy against that employer. Knowing that these types of contracts and clauses are not enforceable in California, an employee should consider the pros and cons of signing a non-compete knowing that a court would probably find it unenforceable, compared to the pros and cons of not receiving a job or getting fired for refusing to sign the non-compete.
(See Link(s): Business & Professions Code Section 16600)