California judge says Google’s non-disclosure agreements violate state law

Google may have to rethink its non-disclosure agreements following a long-running lawsuit from an anonymous worker. According to The Washington Post, a California Superior Court judge has ruled that Google’s employee confidentiality agreements violate state labor laws. Terms banning the employee from discussing his job with potential employers amounted to a non-compete clause and were thus illegal in the state, the judge said.

The internet company originally persuaded a judge to toss out most of the worker’s claims in the belief federal law overrode California legislation. An appeals court overturned that decision, however, noting that state laws did more to protect free speech rights that included work experience. Google has declined to comment on either the verdict or any plans to appeal.

The outcome wouldn’t let Google employees discuss trade secrets if it was upheld. It would let people discuss work experience, though, and could make it easier for job-seekers to switch roles without fear of lawsuits. It might also provide more opportunities for sexual assault and harassment victims to discuss their reasons for leaving a company, although California legislation has already tackled non-disclosure agreements that bar victims from talking about incidents.

 This ruling might also have wider repercussions for California’s tech sector. QH Law partner Ramsey Hanafi told the Post that many large tech companies have similar gag rules. Like it or not, Silicon Valley firms might have to revamp their agreements and accept that it will be easier for staff to leave or identify toxic work cultures.

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