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?
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.
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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