Q: I am a staff psychiatrist in one of the state hospitals in California. I want to work as a contractor with another state
hospital. I was told I have to wait 2 years after I resign from my current job in order to apply as a contractor with the state hospital. How is this legal? I am not involved in any negotiations, planning, arrangements or any policy-making relevant to physician contractors. My current job is as a staff psychiatrist.
4 months ago, I was assigned to be an acting senior psychiatrist supervisor but I did not make policies during that time. I would argue that I was not in a policy-making position. How can they restrict me from working as a contractor to any of the state hospitals and agencies for 12-24 months? Is this legal?
A: California strongly protects employees' rights to move from one job to another, and prohibits such as a restraint of trade. Any attempt to do what your present employer is trying to do is a violation of Business and Professions Code section 16600.
It would be wise for you to seek out a consultation with an attorney who can look at the specifics of your situation. Perhaps a well worded warning letter might inform whoever is doing this that they are violating California law.
Good luck to you.
A: Mr. Pedersen is correct that there are California statutes that prohibit restricting most employers from preventing former employees from obtaining employment with "competitors". Think of a manufacturer's salesman, he can quit and work for a competitor but he cannot use trade secret info, such as a client list. The concern I have about giving you this advice is that you are not an ordinary employee, you work for the State of California; and you are not talking about leaving and getting employed elsewhere, you are talking about being an IC for a different state hospital, PLUS you are a physician. You undoubtedly have a written agreement regarding your current employment and we don't know what those terms are. All of these factors could affect the outcome. You need to contact a local attorney that deals with public employees and present all your information to him for an opinion.
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