What can I do if I started working at a fitness center 6 years ago but when I signed the handbook I didn’t realize that it had a non-compete in there?

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What can I do if I started working at a fitness center 6 years ago but when I signed the handbook I didn’t realize that it had a non-compete in there?

I didn’t even know what that was. I worked there until 5 months ago. I then left there and went to another gym where I started working; this job had more pay and more benefits. I also provided all of my certifications out of my pocket with my first employer; it didn’t not put any money toward me. I left because when I got back from my deployment just about all of my clients, except for a few, had left or stopped coming so I wasn’t making any money. While working at the new facility, my former employer sent a letter from their lawyer saying that I had to be terminated or they will sue my new employer.

Asked on July 7, 2015 under Employment Labor Law, Tennessee

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

If you signed a non-compete, including a non-compete which was part of the employee handbook, you are legally bound by it: the law does not excuse you from your obligations because you did not realize that you were signing a non-compete, but rather holds you accountable to read and understand everything you sign. Non-competes, however, are contracts--they are only enforceable as to their specific terms. In addition, the law puts certain restrictions on non-competes, such as on how long they can be enforced, so as to make sure they do not completely prevent people from earning a living. Thus, while the presumption is that you are bound to the non-compete you signed, you should bring it to an employment attorney who can review it and your situation with you, and let you know the exact restrictions you are under and what your former employer can legally do.


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