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Can Employees Be Restricted to ‘Half” Truths?

Robert Half is a leading staffing company that provides professional placement services in a number of different fields, including finance and accounting, management, administrative support, technology, legal, and marking and advertising, among others.

While Robert Half's main business is helping other people get jobs, a bizarre clause in its contracts with its own employees tried to do the opposite.  Robert Half's employment contract specified that former employees were not allowed to mention or list their prior employment in Robert Half except in “bona fide” resumes and applications for employment.  In other words, employees couldn't mention working for Robert Half on their LinkedIn profiles, on their bios on a new company's website, or even when explaining their expertise to clients or customers.

The clause was designed to make it harder for former Robert Half employees to compete with Robert Half and provide the same services for a new company.  If you were a customer, which would make you more likely to sign up?  “I worked with industry leader Robert Half for ten years” or “I worked at a leading staffing company?”  Probably the one with the name recognition, right?  The other one sounds doubtful, even made up – sure you say it's a leading company, but I don't know that's true.

Fortunately, Robert Half's anti-competitive clause won't hold water in California.  California law voids most restrictions on employees competing with former employers.  According to a recent court decision, Robert Half's gag order is therefore invalid, and employees are free to discuss and publicly list their prior employment with the company.

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