Google may have to rethink its confidentiality agreements after a long-running lawsuit by an anonymous worker. According for The Washington Post, a California Superior Court judge ruled that Google employee confidentiality agreements violate state labor laws. Terms that prohibit an employee from discussing their work with potential employers amount to a non-compete clause and are therefore illegal in the state, the judge said.
The internet company originally persuaded a judge to dismiss most of the worker’s claims in the belief that federal law overruled California law. An appeals court overturned that decision, however, noting that state laws did more to protect free speech rights that included work experience. Google declined to comment on the verdict or any plans to appeal.
The result would not allow Google employees to discuss trade secrets if it was kept. However, this would allow people to discuss work experience and make it easier for job seekers to change roles without fear of lawsuits. It can also provide more opportunities for victims of sexual assault and harassment to discuss their reasons for leaving a company, although California law has already addressed confidentiality agreements that prevent victims from talking about incidents.
That decision could also have broader repercussions for California’s tech industry. QH Law partner Ramsey Hanafi told the Publish that many large tech companies have similar gag rules. Like it or not, Silicon Valley companies may have to reframe their agreements and accept that it will be easier for staff to leave or identify toxic work cultures.
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