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Amazon Sues After Ex-Worker Takes Google Job

Unknown Lamer posted about a month ago | from the everything-you-know-belongs-to-bezos dept.

Businesses 272

vortex2.71 (802986) writes Amazon is suing a former employee of its cloud services division after he took a similar position at Google. The interesting aspect of the lawsuit is that Google is choosing to vigorously defend the lawsuit, so this is a case of Goliath vs. Goliath rather than David vs. Goliath. According to court documents, Zoltan Szabadi left a business-development position at Amazon Web Services for Google's Cloud Platform division. Szabadi's lawyer responded by contending that, while Szabadi did sign a non-compete agreement, he would only use his general knowledge and skills at Google and would not use any confidential information he had access to at Amazon. He also believes Amazon's confidentiality and non-compete agreements are an unlawful business practice.

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Non-compete agreements are BS. (5, Insightful)

Kenja (541830) | about a month ago | (#47369653)

But it is impossible to "not use any confidential information he had access to" without surgery. It's in your brain, you will use it if the situation arises.

Re:Non-compete agreements are BS. (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | about a month ago | (#47369669)

Just scrawl 'I don't agree' on the signature line. Let them enforce that.

Re:Non-compete agreements are BS. (4, Insightful)

ScentCone (795499) | about a month ago | (#47369697)

Just scrawl 'I don't agree' on the signature line. Let them enforce that.

And they would scrawl "you can't cash this" on the paycheck you won't be getting, since signing your employment contract in good faith is, you know, part of setting things up so they'll give you money.

Re:Non-compete agreements are BS. (2)

HornWumpus (783565) | about a month ago | (#47369799)

If they notice. Have you talked to a HR drone lately? They aren't exactly strong on perception and smarts.

Re:Non-compete agreements are BS. (1)

i kan reed (749298) | about a month ago | (#47369837)

Fraud is a serious crime.

Re:Non-compete agreements are BS. (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47369969)

For little people. For big people it's business 101.

Re:Non-compete agreements are BS. (2)

Wootery (1087023) | about a month ago | (#47370443)

Right. And we're talking about a little person.

Re:Non-compete agreements are BS. (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | about a month ago | (#47370025)

Not fraud. Bad faith. Bad faith is not a crime but might affect your end of the contract.

Once the paycheck has cleared they will have a hell of a time getting a penny back. If you aren't an employee there is more jeopardy.

Re:Non-compete agreements are BS. (5, Funny)

Mordok-DestroyerOfWo (1000167) | about a month ago | (#47370083)

Fraud is a serious crime.

I thought it was a legitimate business model.

Re:Non-compete agreements are BS. (1)

Pieroxy (222434) | about a month ago | (#47370325)

Fraud is a serious crime.

I thought it was a legitimate business model.

That's another part of it, yes.

Re:Non-compete agreements are BS. (5, Interesting)

jtownatpunk.net (245670) | about a month ago | (#47370345)

Goes both ways. Reminds me of a situation I ran into years ago. The company I worked for shut its doors overnight (Monday was business as usual, Tuesday "we're done"). I was one of the last people out the door because I stayed on to wrap up our last projects. When that was finally done a few weeks later, I did my exit paperwork. One of the documents said that the company owned any IP I had created during the time I worked there (both on the clock and off the clock, even if it was unrelated to my job) and everything I might create for the next 5 years. When I stopped laughing and dried my eyes I said, "You can't be serious." So the accountant who had inherited HR duties read the document. "You're the first person to say anything about this. Wow. That's just... Okay, cross out the parts you don't agree to and we'll both initial the changes." There was hardly anything left by the time I stopped crossing shit off.

I thought I'd been working with intelligent people but I'm the only one who noticed that ridiculousness.

Re: Non-compete agreements are BS. (3, Insightful)

RobotRunAmok (595286) | about a month ago | (#47370471)

I talk to both HR drones and IT drones all the time, at various companies. And although, unlike you, I am hesitant to generalize, the HR people seem to have far and away more real world smarts and overall life-coping competence than their coding and server-jockeying colleagues.

Re:Non-compete agreements are BS. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47369921)

Perhaps they should write their damned contracts in good faith as well without all strings written in.

Re:Non-compete agreements are BS. (2)

dunkindave (1801608) | about a month ago | (#47370079)

You may still be on the hook. A "signature" is when you write an identifying mark. It doesn't have to be your name, though that is the most common. This is even referenced in movies where people put a big X as their signature. You could sign "Barack Obama" and legally it would still be binding on you. The question is, would the phrase "I don't agree" count as a signature or a statement? If you put it on the signature line when asked to sign, especially as a "scrawl", you may have a problem, while anywhere else you would probably be OK.

FYI - IANAL, though I have filed an won as a Pro Se.

Re:Non-compete agreements are BS. (2)

genner (694963) | about a month ago | (#47370339)

Last one I got I just turned in blank. Office drones never check that stuff until there's a lawsuit.

Re:Non-compete agreements are BS. (5, Insightful)

TheRaven64 (641858) | about a month ago | (#47370239)

A contract does not require a signature, it requires a meeting of minds. A signature is one way of demonstrating this. Accepting the pay cheque and showing up for work is another.

Re:Non-compete agreements are BS. (0)

coinreturn (617535) | about a month ago | (#47370395)

A contract does not require a signature, it requires a meeting of minds. A signature is one way of demonstrating this. Accepting the pay cheque and showing up for work is another.

And signing under duress (no job unless you sign) is one way of demonstrating there is no enforceable contract.

Re:Non-compete agreements are BS. (2)

lgw (121541) | about a month ago | (#47369687)

He's a sales guy. The confidential information is specific customer lists and future pricing strategy if he knew any. Much like if you're a dev, using your skills and best practices is what you're hired for, but don't take the actual source code or roadmaps from your previous employer.

And of course the non-competes are BS. Wasn't there an Amendment that ended slavery and indenture servitude a while back? Bit of a dispute about that one IIRC - what say we leave it settled?

Re:Non-compete agreements are BS. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47369777)

So what legal protections do you believe should exist for trade secrets? Should it be legal for large corporations to steal trade secrets by just buying out employees? Almost everyone can be bribed, and, honestly, no employee should have that much corporate loyalty.

Re:Non-compete agreements are BS. (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47369825)

If what they want is loyalty, they should pay well enough for it to keep their staff - and that goes for everyone, including the US Government.

Re:Non-compete agreements are BS. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47369961)

You say "Loyalty" but then immediately revert to bribery, which does not engender loyalty. Learn more about theory of rewards. And besides, that plays perfectly to the mega-corporations who can afford to bribe anyone.

Re:Non-compete agreements are BS. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47369893)

Yes. Pay your employees that come up with great secrets more, and they wont leave. If that doesn't work, patent it. That is exactly why patents exist.

Re:Non-compete agreements are BS. (2)

HornWumpus (783565) | about a month ago | (#47369903)

Any employee with access to true trade secrets should be paid well enough that he/she won't bolt for the door at the first opportunity.

That said a 'customer list' is not a trade secret, except in the most legalistic sense. Sales weasels know other people and will try to take 'their customers'* with them, duh. That's the nature of the beast.

* anybody who trusts a sales weasel gets what they deserve. Want to keep your customers? Fucking serve them well. I've happily worked for companies that made their living harvesting underserved, overcharged customers of the likes of EDS. Everybody knew who was getting EDSed...it was just a matter of finding out who EDS had bribed, getting to that person's boss and giving him an option better then continued financial sodomy.

Re:Non-compete agreements are BS. (2)

Kielistic (1273232) | about a month ago | (#47369951)

There should be exactly no legal protection of trade secrets. It is not up to the courts to defend your business model.

Re:Non-compete agreements are BS. (2)

lgw (121541) | about a month ago | (#47370093)

So what legal protections do you believe should exist for trade secrets? Should it be legal for large corporations to steal trade secrets by just buying out employees? Almost everyone can be bribed, and, honestly, no employee should have that much corporate loyalty.

You seem confused by the difference between an NDA and a non-compete. Neither TFA nor the post you replied to disputed NDAs. The issue at hand is non-competes, which seem unnecessary (given an NDA) and possibly illegal. Explicitly illegal in Cali, IIRC, but not in WA.

Re:Non-compete agreements are BS. (1)

VorpalRodent (964940) | about a month ago | (#47369879)

I'm having a little trouble parsing the slavery comment.

"In order to ensure you will not use the valuable cotton picking skills you've acquired here at another employer, we've purchased these shackles so that you cannot help another plantation compete with us."

Re:Non-compete agreements are BS. (3, Insightful)

lgw (121541) | about a month ago | (#47370055)

Slavery (and indentured servitude) is not the condition of working without being paid, but the condition of having no choice of employer. A contract that amounts to indentured servitude is an illegal contract. How much you think anon-compete looks like indentured servitude is the matter in dispute - if you can't do X, but you can still flip burgers, does that count?

Re:Non-compete agreements are BS. (2)

PhrostyMcByte (589271) | about a month ago | (#47369735)

Non-competes are BS. But requiring employees to not reveal confidential information, poach clients, etc. for their new competing bosses seems like a reasonable and ethical thing to ask. It sounds like Amazon believes he may have crossed this line, beyond simply working for a competitor.

Re:Non-compete agreements are BS. (4, Insightful)

i kan reed (749298) | about a month ago | (#47369843)

Non-compete is just one of the many ways in which the US completely an utterly lacks the free market we love to blab about.

Re:Non-compete agreements are BS. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47369931)

They're also unenforceable in California....

Re:Non-compete agreements are BS. (4, Interesting)

HornWumpus (783565) | about a month ago | (#47370077)

They are only enforceable in California if narrowly written and for a specific time frame.

Basically, in California a non-compete cannot keep you from working. A non compete that says 'you may not program computers' is unenforceable. A non compete that says 'for one year, you may not program computers for any of our clients or competitors' is enforceable (unless the whole industry is your competitor).

Re:Non-compete agreements are BS. (4, Informative)

queequeg1 (180099) | about a month ago | (#47370351)

Not in situations like this, where it appears regular employees are involved. They're only enforceable when you're dealing with the sale of a business interest or dissolution of a partnership or LLC. But if I just walk in off the street and go to work for someone in CA who makes me sign a non-compete, the agreement will be completely unenforceable no matter how narrowly it's written.

Here's a decent discussion of the law:

http://ymsllp.com/news-and-pub... [ymsllp.com]

As far as I know, CA is the only state that is so restrictive. Most others use some sort of reasonableness test based on time/geographical limits.

Re:Non-compete agreements are BS. (4, Informative)

whoever57 (658626) | about a month ago | (#47370403)

A non compete that says 'for one year, you may not program computers for any of our clients or competitors' is enforceable (unless the whole industry is your competitor).

Not in California. There is a small set of exceptions where non-competes can be enforced, but none of them apply to a regular employee (they apply to business owners and principals). Furthermore, non-compete agreements from other states cannot be enforced in California courts.

Re:Non-compete agreements are BS. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47370043)

What a load of BS. You are free to sign or not sign a non-compete. I don't understand why your kind always makes such insane rants. I get it. You don't like white people. I can tell from your other posts that you're an insane liberal that hates motorcycles. Guess what, I'm black and own a motorcycle. So do you like me or hate me? What is stronger, your hatred of motorcycles or your hatred of whites?

Again, it is a free market because we have the choice of accepting money in exchange for signing a non-compete. If you put people in prison, like you demand, for signing one, then we would not be free. Stop trying to screw us workers over.

Re:Non-compete agreements are BS. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47370047)

We udderly lack the free market.

Re:Non-compete agreements are BS. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47370381)

especially in dairy products

Re:Non-compete agreements are BS. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47370393)

What do cows have to do with it? (Unless you meant utterly.....)

Re:Non-compete agreements are BS. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47370169)

Ah, but the free market supply siders argue that we can't deny businesses from setting up any and all barriers and conditions for employment. After all, workers should be completely free to work for an organization that tramples their individual rights. The market will sort it out after all the people who don't want to sign up for indentured servitude are dead because they chose to die poor and free.

Re:Non-compete agreements are BS. (1)

greenwow (3635575) | about a month ago | (#47370513)

What about my freedom to accept the money in exchange for signing one? If I didn't get the $5k extra from Amazon for signing mine, I would have not been able to pay my rent and my have ended-up homeless. Of course that would make your kind happy since you don't think I have the right to accept money in exchange for making an agreement. Can you explain a logical reason why you don't think we have this right? I know you Republicans don't believe in rights unless they were enumerated in the Bill of Rights, but that isn't the way it works. The BoR wasn't made to limit our rights. It was made to explain some of our rights. So, explain why you want to take that right from me?

Re:Non-compete agreements are BS. (1)

Rich0 (548339) | about a month ago | (#47369973)

Non-competes are BS. But requiring employees to not reveal confidential information, poach clients, etc. for their new competing bosses seems like a reasonable and ethical thing to ask. It sounds like Amazon believes he may have crossed this line, beyond simply working for a competitor.

The problem is that you need specific evidence to sue for this. They're suing for a non-compete agreement, which in theory bars working for Google at all and thus has a much lower burden of proof.

NDAs have been around for decades and I don't think anybody has a problem with them. If you write software for company A, you can't give the source code to company B. What is controversial is saying that you can't do anything for company B.

In my industry non-compete agreements are not common, despite there being lots of proprietary information. When you switch employers you can use your skills, but nobody asks anybody what company foo is using in their secret formula, and there is no conflict of interest.

Re:Non-compete agreements are BS. (0)

Shados (741919) | about a month ago | (#47370065)

If his NDA is written with the standard terminology used in states that allow them, the wording is probably something along the line of "You agree not to take a position for a competitor in a field that specifically compete with what you were doing here". Even if its not worded that way, its historically how they're enforced in the few tech hubs situated in states that have enforced them.

That is, if you, let say, work for a retail chain, and jump ship to another retail chain, that isn't enough. If you're in the analytics department of retail chain A and go in analytics department of retail chain B, that starts being warmer. If you're the lead database architect of the analytic department specialized in cloud computing of a shoes retail chain A and go to be lead database architect of the analytic department in cloud computing of shoes retail chain B, THAT is when you're in trouble.

And reading the article, its basically what the guy did. Its unbelievably narrow, and he basically hit all of the triggers, precisely. You have to try really hard to do that, but he did.

Re:Non-compete agreements are BS. (1)

afidel (530433) | about a month ago | (#47370353)

Non-competes are BS in almost all cases (if your title doesn't have a C* or *VP you probably shouldn't be asked to sign one), but as you say a non-solicitation agreement and nondisclosure agreement are probably fine for anyone dealing with sales or large amounts of confidential information.

Re:Non-compete agreements are BS. (2)

SJester (1676058) | about a month ago | (#47369743)

He won't actually tell them to do anything, just play "hot and cold" while they hold up business plans in front of him. "Warmer, warmer, you're getting close..."

Re:Non-compete agreements are BS. (0)

Bill_the_Engineer (772575) | about a month ago | (#47369791)

Zoltan Szabadi agreed to the non-compete and in returned was employed by Amazon. Now that Zoltan can find a job a Google he decides to go against the contract that he signed.

Re:Non-compete agreements are BS. (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47369885)

But in many states (including my own) non-competes are basically illegal, as any provision in a work contract that prevents you from performing your job (at the new company) cannot be enforced by a prior employer. Basically, most employment contracts are written with everything the company hiring wants, knowing that much of what it wants will be severed right away by the courts.

Re:Non-compete agreements are BS. (2)

Jeff Flanagan (2981883) | about a month ago | (#47369983)

The unethical, and generally unenforceable contract that he signed. You left out that part in your zeal to defend his corporate master.

Re:Non-compete agreements are BS. (1)

Bill_the_Engineer (772575) | about a month ago | (#47370021)

You've confused pointing out the situation Zoltan knowingly got himself into with defending his so-called corporate master.

Re:Non-compete agreements are BS. (1)

Uberbah (647458) | about a month ago | (#47370451)

You're pretending the worker-employer imbalance does not exist, to defend his corporate master.

Re:Non-compete agreements are BS. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47369987)

If Amazon are paying him equal salary to what Google offered while he's unable to work for Google, then I suppose it doesn't deserve the slavery comparisons.

Re:Non-compete agreements are BS. (4, Interesting)

Registered Coward v2 (447531) | about a month ago | (#47370247)

Zoltan Szabadi agreed to the non-compete and in returned was employed by Amazon. Now that Zoltan can find a job a Google he decides to go against the contract that he signed.

A few points:

1. He contends he isn't revealing any trade secrets and thus complying with the non-compete in that regard. To me, and INAL

2. The length of time he is not allowed to work for a competitor seems excessive, especially since the are not compensating him in return for not going to work for a competitor. 18 months of unemployability based on your most marketable skills seems unreasonable, and I would expect a court to throw out that clause.

3. Twelve months of not working with previous clients seems reasonable to me. He just needs to not call on any clients he worked with at Amazon so unless Google was hiring him to poach Amazon clients he should be able to do that with no problem. I say that because when I was in a similar situation I had a 12 month no solicit clause and had no problem keeping it. Oddly enough, my non-compete actually only was a non-solicit so I could and did setup shop doing the exact same thing I did at my employer except charge less. Technically, if they called me I could work with them since they did the initial contact. My lawyer found the clause bizarre but also pointe rout they labor law is constantly changing due to court cases and legislation so chances are something written a few years ago would have sections that were no longer enforceable; which is why he suggest companies periodically review and update non-competes.

He also said courts tend to take a dim view of agreements that prevent a person from working in his normal field unless they are getting reasonable compensation for not working. Merely being paid while you worked there is usually not enough, despite what some companies would like you to believe. He also pointed out they can't withhold pay you are owed because you fail to sign something or not return company equipment; despite what they may say. Of course, IANAL and the laws may be different where you live.

Re:Non-compete agreements are BS. (1)

B33rNinj4 (666756) | about a month ago | (#47369851)

I agree that these types of contracts are total crap. It just ends up limiting the job market.

Re:Non-compete agreements are BS. (1)

pr0fessor (1940368) | about a month ago | (#47370175)

Wasn't there a recent issue with no poaching employee agreements... and doesn't this do the same?

http://arstechnica.com/tech-po... [arstechnica.com]

Re:Non-compete agreements are BS. (2)

Nyder (754090) | about a month ago | (#47370019)

But it is impossible to "not use any confidential information he had access to" without surgery. It's in your brain, you will use it if the situation arises.

I'm waiting for a Restaurant to sue another Restaurant when the chef changes job.

"He can't boil water without using the techniques he learned at our restaurant!!!"

stupid gits

Re:Non-compete agreements are BS. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47370087)

On the other hand, a bizdev guy like this most likely has personal contact with a fair number of AWS's larger customers. This isn't "you might solve the same technical problems that you had at your last job". The moment he gets to the Google job, he's going to tell them all of AWS's big clients and what their big pain points are, and give Google an unfair advantage to market to AWS's customer base. It's the same problem with regulators retiring from public service to join a private sector corporation. They're being hired primarily for their connections, and the only way to prevent that from happening is to bar them from being hired until those connections lose value.

Maybe the US government should look into NCAs for public servants...

Re:Non-compete agreements are BS. (1)

gnasher719 (869701) | about a month ago | (#47370531)

But it is impossible to "not use any confidential information he had access to" without surgery. It's in your brain, you will use it if the situation arises.

That's, in general, nonsense. It's perfectly possible for me not to use information in my brain, if the situation arises. And this would only be about _confidential_ information. For example, anything that is in Amazon's official sales information is not confidential. And any information that is indeed confidential, it is entirely possible for me to keep my mouth shut, don't tell my colleagues, and don't act on it.

There are very few positions indeed where it could be judged that it would be inevitable to use such confidential information. Just because Amazon doesn't trust their employee (or because they just claim they don't trust that employee) doesn't mean he will rat out confidential information.

Zoltan (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47369691)

Zoltan sees money in your future.

Aren't non-competes unenforceable anyway? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47369715)

You can't sign away your rights.

Re:Aren't non-competes unenforceable anyway? (2)

Sarten-X (1102295) | about a month ago | (#47369751)

Actually, yes, you can. That's pretty much the basis of contract law.

Re:Aren't non-competes unenforceable anyway? (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47369935)

It depends on which rights, and what jurisdiction. Some rights can never be signed away, some can.

Re:Aren't non-competes unenforceable anyway? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47370109)

You have very little understanding of contract law.

For there to be a valid contract
There must be a meeting of the minds - i.e. consent
There must be consideration.
It must be lawful.

Its an exercise to the OP to figure out what elements are violated of the above.

Re:Aren't non-competes unenforceable anyway? (1)

thaylin (555395) | about a month ago | (#47369765)

Tell us that the next time you wanna file a class action suit against any service provider you use...

Re:Aren't non-competes unenforceable anyway? (1)

Shados (741919) | about a month ago | (#47369821)

You can't sign away your rights.

Depends where you are. I think they're unenforceable in California? I don't know about Washington.

A big chunk of Amazon's AWS division also sits in Cambridge, MA, where they can be enforced for certain high profile positions or something very meaningful in related businesses...so a senior software architect who designed key infrastructure, or a salesman with a list of customer, could get slapped for moving to a related business 2 blocks away to Google.

I just skimmed the article so aside for which journal published it as a hint, I didn't see where the employee was located, Seattle or Cambridge...so it really depends, and even if the former, what exactly is that state's stance on non-competes?

Counter-suit (1)

mfh (56) | about a month ago | (#47369717)

Amazon has deep pockets and they could be bullying an employee here. Many non-competes are thrown out when court challenged. This case could come down to how poorly Amazon may have treated this employee. A non-compete is not a writ of slavery.

Re:Counter-suit (0)

mythosaz (572040) | about a month ago | (#47369755)

A non-compete is not a writ of slavery.

...and, as I believe has already been pointed out, even if it were - no matter what your D/s master might have told you - you can't enter into contracts of slavery.

I'm going to be surprised if Amazon wins this one, even in the People's Democratic Republic of California.

Re:Counter-suit (4, Informative)

sribe (304414) | about a month ago | (#47369801)

I'm going to be surprised if Amazon wins this one, even in the People's Democratic Republic of California.

??? Apparently you do not realize that CA has some of the strongest laws in the nation restricting non-compete agreements. CA is actually the least likely state in the country for Amazon to win this.

Re:Counter-suit (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47370105)

That's great, but you didn't rebut his argument that California, having a liberal slant, is just like North Korea. That means he's right and you're wrong!!!!! even if you have things he doesn't care about, um, facts or whatever you OBamabots call em, Libtard!

Re:Counter-suit (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47370149)

You're citing reality, and reality has a well-known liberal bias.

Re:Counter-suit (1)

EvilJoker (192907) | about a month ago | (#47370235)

Non-competes have a lot of established case law. Part of it is the usual contract law (which is VERY well established as to what can and cannot be done), but there is more beyond that. Some questions that will be raised:
1) Reasonableness of the terms (e.g. not stealing customer lists, vs. not working in the industry)
2) Impact to the employee. Courts have generally ruled that a non-compete cannot ever interfere with the employees' right to earn a living. IOW, if Amazon wants him off the market for a year, they need to pay him a year's salary.
3) Jurisdiction. Amazon famously avoids a presence in CA (to avoid CA sales tax), so presumably the non-compete was signed in WA. The job with Google is presumably in CA, which forbids such restrictions. This could mean it falls under federal laws regarding interstate commerce.

It also seems to bear resemblence to this case [wikipedia.org]
Source [wikipedia.org]

Re:Counter-suit (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47370445)

True, non-compete agreements are not favored in California, but if Washington state laws apply (and assuming they are more non-compete agreement friendly) Amazon may have a stronger position than we think.

Re:Counter-suit (0, Flamebait)

thaylin (555395) | about a month ago | (#47369811)

You act like conservatives would uphold employees rights over employers contracts...Being in the south east I can tell you that is not true typically

Re:Counter-suit (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47369939)

Ah yes, queue the bigoted partisan political hate speech.

Re:Counter-suit (0)

thaylin (555395) | about a month ago | (#47370335)

Because if I counter one side I have to be a partisan bigot with political hate speech, I cannot be able to recognize the flaws of both sides right?

Re:Counter-suit (1)

Jeff Flanagan (2981883) | about a month ago | (#47370003)

>I'm going to be surprised if Amazon wins this one, even in the People's Democratic Republic of California.

You seem out of touch with reality. Civilized people do much more to protect the little guy, so non-competes do not fly in California. It's the employer-worshiping conservatives (all hail the job-creators) that you have to watch out for.

Re:Counter-suit (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47370497)

Interesting how these Job Creators profit the most from higher unemployment rates.

Modern day indentured servitude (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47369785)

No, we don't need a union...

Re:Modern day indentured servitude (1)

pla (258480) | about a month ago | (#47370045)

No, we don't need a union...

Or, we could just all refuse to sign overly-broad non-competes and NDAs. I do (refuse), and manage to do so entirely without needing to fork over a cut of my weekly paycheck to group that would then use it to lobby largely against my personal beliefs.

If you choose to sell your soul, don't cry when the Devil demands his due.

Re: Modern day indentured servitude (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47370227)

Which personal beliefs would that be? That people who create wealth should be compensated accordingly? That those who have huge amounts of wealth should have their influence countered? That an individual shouldn't have to personally be a legal and negotiating expert to gain employment?

I'm super glad you're such a special snowflake that you never need help with anything, but you might want to consider that constantly falling wages affects your bargaining position whether you will ever admit it or not.

do they want him to take an unpaid time off? (1)

ConstantineM (965345) | about a month ago | (#47369793)

So, they want him to take the time off for 18 months? How much are they willing to pay for such a vacation? Surely if they never intend to pay anything, then such an agreement is indeed excessive and completely unreasonable.

Re:do they want him to take an unpaid time off? (1)

Shados (741919) | about a month ago | (#47370001)

Those agreements are silly and shouldn't be allowed...but in this particular case, if he went to Google doing the same job, but in a different department, he'd have been fine, even if you take his non-compete agreement verbatim...

The guy really pushed the limit there.

Re:do they want him to take an unpaid time off? (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | about a month ago | (#47370433)

Enforcement of non-competes varies a lot between jurisdictions, but there is some precedent for requiring the company that demands the non-compete to pay the employee's salary for the duration. This also provides a good incentive for non-competes to scale with employment time.

Amazon's on thin ice here (1)

aaron4801 (3007881) | about a month ago | (#47369803)

Non-compete agreements are on shaky legal ground to begin with. But pile that on top of the silicon valley lawsuits about employee poaching, and how badly that has gone for the companies involved, and you would think that Amazon wouldn't be quite so tone deaf about the issues this brings up. It's illegal to agree not to hire other employees, but if you do, they'll still sue over it? Stupid, stupid, stupid.

Re:Amazon's on thin ice here (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47369919)

Non-compete agreements are on shaky legal ground to begin with.

But pile that on top of the silicon valley lawsuits about employee poaching, and how badly that has gone for the companies involved, and you would think that Amazon wouldn't be quite so tone deaf about the issues this brings up. It's illegal to agree not to hire other employees, but if you do, they'll still sue over it? Stupid, stupid, stupid.

I'm sure if it were your company and sensitive data you'd be singing another tune.

Mind slavery? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47369809)

One has to almost look at these kinds of confidentiality agreements and draw the conclusion that a place like Amazon, Google, Apple or Microsoft want to own your knowledge exclusively. As if its mind slavery or something like that. I personally think these agreements have been challenged in the past and while some things can be said for keeping secrets. I think bringing ideals from one company to another is not. I would ask a company like Amazon, why they did not do a better job of keeping this person at Amazon in the first place? Obviously Google thinks this person is worthy of hiring for his ideals and is willing to fight for them.
From the things I have read about Amazon and Google. I think Amazon by far is the worst company of the two to work for.

Re:Mind slavery? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47370099)

When forced to sign (yes forced otherwise no job) then starting from first day on job, do nothing at all, just sit.
Take the position that most of skills were obtained on other jobs which all had non-compete agreements and as such the only thing that wasn't non-compete is just sitting.
When fired then take the position with unemployment that the new employer wanted you to break prior contracts.
Those fucken companies that think they own a persons soul and brain are what drives people to start a union.

America has a rich tradition of this (4, Interesting)

nimbius (983462) | about a month ago | (#47369877)

Robert Parker and Anthony Johnson in 1654 was possibly one of the first documented cases of this. One of Johnsons servants, John Casor who was brought over from Africa, claimed he was under a 'seaven or eight yeares' contract and that hedd completed it. Thus, he asked Johnson for his freedom. Johnson didnt see things this way, and denied the request. Despite this, according to Casor, Johnson eventually agreed to allow him to leave, with pressure supposedly coming from Johnsons family who felt that Casor should be free. Thus, Casor went to work for a man by the name of Robert Parker. Either Johnson changed his mind or he never said Casor could go, because he soon filed a lawsuit against Parker claiming that Parker stole his servant, and that Casor was Johnsons for life and was not an indentured servant.

Non-competes should not make you unemployable (2)

sandbagger (654585) | about a month ago | (#47369887)

The purpose of a non-compete clause is primarily one of ethics. However, you cannot say 'We want to hire you for X skill and never have you use those skills for anyone else ever again.'

It's unrealistic.

The only way that's sustainable is if they compensate you for never being able to make a living again. I believe that when the hammer is brought down for non compete clauses, it needs to be at the end of a process and not done in principle. Amazon and Google have no end of jobs and bazillions of products. As long as you're not using inside knowledge, and competing directly in products, the former employer needs to make some evidentiary claim.

They do serve a function and need to be there.

Re:Non-competes should not make you unemployable (2)

sanjosanjo (804469) | about a month ago | (#47369967)

Alternatively, a more realistic/fair situation would be to force any employer to continue paying the employee during the non-compete duration. This would be fair to the employee, and at the same time, reduce a company's desire to implement a non-compete in the first place.

Re:Non-competes should not make you unemployable (2)

wisnoskij (1206448) | about a month ago | (#47370263)

Hardly sounds fair for the employee. Your career is still stopped cold. And it is never easy to restart a career with a multiple year jap in the middle.

Re:Non-competes should not make you unemployable (1)

Shados (741919) | about a month ago | (#47369979)

I absolutely agree there simply shouldn't be non-competes, and in some states, that's the case.

That said, if you have a case of someone working for company A, in a very specific division, and maintains a customer/contact list, then goes to the #1 or #2 competitor of that company, in precisely the exact same division of a fairly narrow field, physically across the street, that's definitely pushing it in term of ethics.

I still think you should totally be allowed to do that. But at least it isn't a case of "Tech worker goes to another tech company and gets sued over non-compete". Its a fair bit narrower than that.

Re:Non-competes should not make you unemployable (4, Interesting)

EmperorOfCanada (1332175) | about a month ago | (#47370269)

Actually in Canada there was a recent Supreme court decision where they said that you could even contact former customers as long as it was reasonable for you to have naturally remembered their contact information. So I couldn't leave with a list of 100,000 contacts, but 40-100 would potentially be reasonable.

Basically how this broke down was that it was against the charter to tell you where you can and can't work. Also it was against the charter to tell you who you can and can't contact. Thus any contract clauses that violate the charter are void.

I was blown away with the contacting former customers being allowed. Oh and this particular decision also cleared pillaging former employees.

Re:Non-competes should not make you unemployable (1)

Jeff Flanagan (2981883) | about a month ago | (#47370033)

>The only way that's sustainable is if they compensate you for never being able to make a living again.

Correct. A non-compete is only ethical if it comes with enough cash that you don't have to work in your field for many years. The alternative is having a former employer continue to control the employee without compensation, which is slavery.

Just pay him not to work (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47369909)

The only reasonable non-compete I've ever signed was limited to 2 years. If the company believed I held confidential information they reserved the right to pay me to not work for that time. I believe it even had a clause that said they'd pay me what I was offered by the new company as long as it was in a comparable range to what I was previously paid.

Re:Just pay him not to work (1)

Trepidity (597) | about a month ago | (#47369985)

That's common in finance, but seems not to be common in tech. Many investment banks have a clause giving them the option to keep you from working for a competitor for 6-12 months after leaving the company. But if they exercise the option, they have to pay you to not work, usually some percentage of your previous salary.

Re:Just pay him not to work (1)

wisnoskij (1206448) | about a month ago | (#47370317)

That sounds pretty easy to take advantage of.
"Ya, my brother is starting up a finance firm that is doing the exact same thing as you, he says he will pay me 150% of my current salary to go work for him.
According to my contract this means you now have to pay me 50% more than my current contract and I can sit at home and do nothing, or maybe take on a little work on the side under the table"

Re:Just pay him not to work (1)

KingOfBLASH (620432) | about a month ago | (#47370517)

In many jurisdictions that is the only way a non-compete is enforceable. For instance, in the EU this is the ONLY legal way to have a non-compete.

LOL ... (1)

gstoddart (321705) | about a month ago | (#47370163)

Good luck with that ... you don't mess with the Zoltan. ;-)

WTF? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47370197)

What was the guy supposed to do, go back to college for new fucking profession? Even if he signed that shit they couldn't expect the guy not to work unless they were still paying him until the agreement ended. Shame on Amazon for using such practices that have no place in an terminologically advanced society. It should be illegal to even ask someone to sign that bullshit.

Do they own him? (2)

EmperorOfCanada (1332175) | about a month ago | (#47370217)

I love how this makes sense to the corporate minds at Amazon. This guy worked for them and thus they can now control his life? Employees leaving is a part of life. Oddly enough a specialist in such an industry is going to go to a competitor. Any contract that somehow demands that they get to control you after you quit is absurd and should be thrown out with extreme prejudice. And before anyone says, "Well he signed it." Can you list 4 consecutive words from the terms and conditions of Slashdot? Did you know that Clause 18 section B allows slashdot to demand that you donate any or all compatible organs if they need a transplant for any of the executive?

If you look at a recent Supreme court decision in Canada involving RBC, you will find that they basically struck down most of the concept of an employment non-compete as violating a charter right to live and work where you chose. While this might seem irrelevant to the US courts, I went to a talk given by a supreme court justice who said, that due to the nature of many western countries having a British based legal system that they do look at the thinking of the highest courts in other former British colonies. Not only to see what they were thinking at the time but to see if there were unintended consequences to similar decisions.

Unlucky him. He doesn't work in Canada. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47370405)

In Canada the non competitive clauses are strictly regulated. ANY fault in them void ALL of them. This is to avoid vague all inclusive clauses that can be "expanded" later with layers.

The requirements are:

1 -Specifies the actions that cannot be taken. Such action must be very specific since non-competitive clauses cannot be used to prevent someone from working in his field of expertise.
2- Specifies the area (city, state) where those clauses applies. The whole world or the whole country are almost guaranteed to be found at fault.
3- Specifies the time lenght of the restriction. Once again, the time has to be reasonable or the clauses are void. One year plus for technical IT related ... Cannot be reasonable since by the time you can work again, you are obsolete.

Almost all corporation go too broad with 1 and 3 and just forget about 2 thinking that an "obvious" clause can be used. Wrong. Failing to address a requirement voids the whole thing.

Here is a good example: Mr. X, Marketing expert, is banned from working as a marketing expert in the state of New York for a year. He is specifically barred from creating marketing studies, interacting with any client or supplier related to corporation Y primary product, bottled soda.

In this case Mr. X could legally sell cars next doors to Corp Y. And still operate as a marketing agent (his field of expertise) or work in the bottled soda business in Texas.

So far I ran into a single corporation with the anti-competitive clauses rights in 15 years.

In the US? Well you can patent rounded corner for a handheld device and win. Regardless of the absolute obviousness of it. So maybe he can get banned from working for almost 2 years. This is an excellent tool to lower salaries.

Lmare (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47370459)

Flaws in the 5BSD
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