UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022
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My wife signed a 2 year non-compete at her current job. She is a dog trainer her boss paid for her school as part of that non-compete which we owe her if she quits or is fired. Yesterday a year into it her boss gave her a new non-compete that is completely different. Saying after she quits or is fired she cannot work in the business for a year This cannot be legal? If she doesn’t sign and is fired, will we still owe the school that was paid for?
Asked on September 26, 2018 under Employment Labor Law, Michigan
SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney
Answered 4 years ago | Contributor
1) It is generally legal: your wife can refuse to sign, and take the risk of being fired for not signing, but the agreement itself is legal--at least about her quitting. Usually, a noncompete is not enforced if the person is terminated NOT for cause (see below regarding "for cause"), because the law doesn't let an employer tie employees up from working, then fire them when the employee is blameless, preventing them from supporting themselves. But it would be enforceable in the event of her quitting or being fired "for cause."
2) Generally, if your wife is not fired "for cause" (the most common reasons for being fired "for cause" are: violating company policy, absenteeism, insubordination, committing a crime at work, being intoxicated at work, etc.), she would not have to repay if fired: the law doesn't generally let someone put another into a position where they could be penaltized when they are blameless. Usually, refusing to sign a new noncompete would not be considered a "for cause" termination.
The above, however, are only generalizations: the specicif language of the agreements (exactly what to they say?) and unique facts of this situation are critical to fully understanding your wife's rights and risks. You are advised to have your wife bring copies of the old and new agreements to an employment lawyer to review with her.
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