California employment laws are some of the most pro-employee laws in the nation. That’s why so many large California employers, and their clever legal counsel, often try to get California employees to sign employment agreements that prohibit the employee from suing in this state (forcing them, instead, to have to sue in some other state that has less employee-friendly laws).
Well, that employer strategy will soon be coming to an end.
Last week, Governor Brown signed SB 1241 which prohibits employers from requiring employees who primarily work and reside in California, as a condition of employment, to agree to arbitrate or litigate claims in another state. SB 1241 also prohibits employers from requiring employees to sign agreements that “deprive” the employee of the “substantive protections of California law.” Any employment contract that violates this new law is voidable by the employee, even if the employee signed it. In addition, the employee may sue the employer for injunctive relief and attorneys’ fees in California.
There is one notable exception, however — if the employee was represented by counsel in the pre-hiring negotiation process, and if that counsel participated in the negotiation of the non-California forum language, then the contract will be valid and enforceable.
This new law takes effect on January 1, 2017. You can read the full text of the law here.