Trade Secrets in California

Companies sometimes dismiss trade secrets as a significant form of intellectual property because unlike patents, copyrights or trademarks, trade secrets are not publicly recognized or registered with the government. Indeed, every aspect of the trade secret depends on just that, secrecy. Once a trade secret becomes known, the value is lost (and a business generally suffers). Fortunately, California has laws in place to protect trade secrets.

Updates to “Joint Employer” Legislation?

Generally speaking, joint employment, or co-employment, is the sharing of control and supervision of an employee’s activity among two or more business entities. A benefit of the increasingly popular employment practice is the ease with which joint employers are often able to hire experts in niche industries, individuals with specialist skills, and/or even replace their regular workforce. Currently, however, no single legal definition of joint employment exists and Congress is out to change that.

Non-Competes in California – A Non-Starter?

Are non-compete agreements truly a thing of the past in California? It seems that the California Supreme Court would like employers to think so. After all, in 2008 the Court brought down the hammer on these covenants not to compete (a clause under which one party (usually an employee) agrees not to enter into or start a similar profession or trade in competition against another party (usually the employer)), holding that California Business Code §16600 prohibits all restraints on trade, including non-solicitation provisions (Edwards v. Arthur Anderson, 44 Cal. 4th 937(2008)).

California’s Bathroom Bill

In 2016, Assembly Bill No. 1732, also known as the “All-Gender” Bathroom Bill (Bathroom Bill), was introduced to the California legislature and subsequently signed into law by Governor Brown.  The Bathroom Bill was sponsored by California NOW, Equality California, and the Transgender Law Center because “restrict[ing] access to single-occupancy restrooms by gender create problems of safety, fairness, and convenience.” And recently, the bill went into effect.

Before the Bathroom Bill

Class Action Update: Arbitration Clauses Cannot Bar Claims for Public Injunctive Relief

Today, many businesses use arbitration as a means of resolving claims that arise. Indeed, many California consumer agreements contain arbitration clauses.

However, the California Supreme Court recently narrowed the protection of arbitration agreements with class action waivers. Financial services entities and other businesses will be required to review their current contractual provisions to ensure compliance in the Golden State.

California Supreme Court: Public Employees’ Work-Related Texts and Emails on Private Devices are “Public Records”

According to the California Supreme Court, public employees’ communications about official agency business may be subject to California Public Records Act (CPRA). This extends to communications on personal computers, smartphones, tablets, etc…

While this is a case involving a public sector employer and the CPRA, I foresee that it may – and sooner than later — be relevant to private sector employers and “bring your own device” policies (more on those here), as well as private sector employees’ privacy interests.