Is a non-compete signed under duress legally enforceable?

My boyfriend has been employed by a company for more than 4 years. Now, all of a sudden, his boss wants him to sign a non-compete clause. He is a tow truck driver. He had refused to sign the paper because his boss did not train him, he already knew how to perform his job when he was hired. Today his boss threatened him with termination of employment if he did not sign the paper. After a while of going back and forth, he signed the paper. Will that paper hold up in court since he was forced to sign the paper or lose his job? This is something new to the company that was not in place upon his initial employment.

Asked on February 8, 2016 under Employment Labor Law, Georgia

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

It understandably feels like duress, but legally, it's not. "Duress" is when someone uses a threat of violence or illegal activity (like falsely reporting a crime; or a threat to steal/take money, or to release incrimininating informaton or photographs) to coerce someone to do something. But it is not duress if someone states they will do something they are legally allowed to do unless you do a certain thing which they have the right to request. Employers have the right to put terms and conditions on employment, including having to sign a non-compete agreement to either get or keep a job; they are allowed to change those terms or conditions at any time--such as starting to require a non-compete, when they did not previously do so; and they are allowed to require existing employees to sign a non-compete or be terminated. So the employer had the right to do this. At the same time, your boyfriend had the right to not sign and be terminated or quit if he does not want to be bound by a non-compete--it may be a bad choice, but it is a choice. So this was no duress in the law's eyes and the agreement would be enforceable.


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