Last week, California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law Senate Bill 1241 (“SB 1241”). The new law (available here), which takes effect on January 1, 2017, adds section 925 to the California Labor Code (“Section 925”). In general, Section 925 will prohibit employers from requiring California-based employees to enter into agreements requiring them to: (1) adjudicate claims arising in California in a non-California forum; or (2) litigate their claims under the law of another jurisdiction, unless the employee was represented by counsel. Section 925 represents a considerable limit on parties’ rights to contract and may be the end of forum-selection and choice of law provisions, currently common in employment agreements.
For years, employers based outside of California have incorporated forum-selection and/or choice-of-law provisions in agreements with their California employees. Some employers used these provisions to create company-wide uniformity among their workforce. Others used forum-selection and choice-of-law provisions to avoid some of California’s more rigid rules about restrictive covenants. Whatever the motivation, forum-selection and choice-of-law provisions have become commonplace in employment and arbitration agreements.