is it legal for an employer to force you to sign a non compete letter

i am told that if i do not sign this document i will be fired,isnt that extortion

Asked on May 20, 2016 under Employment Labor Law, North Carolina


M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

For an existing employee, a non-compete agreement needs to meet the requirments of a legal contract. This means that it must requires something be given on both sides. Accordingly, if an employee is going to agree to give up other job  opportunities, etc. then their employer has to provide something of value in return. For example, signing the agreement can be tied to a promotion, raise or even continued employment. That having been said, non-compete agreements need to be narrowly drafted so as not be be overbroad (e.g. in duration, geographic scope, etc.). Additionally, an employee may negotiate these agreements just as they’d negotiate the terms of any contract. Yet, notwithstanding the foregoing, refusing to sign may put an employee's job at risk. The fact is that, under most state labor laws, employment is provided “at will", which means that an employer can fire an employee for any reason or no reason at all unless there is an employment contract or union agreement stating otherwise, or such termination would in some way constitute a form of legally actionable discrimination.

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