Employment Law Questions? Ask an Employment Lawyer.
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It's a bit far after the loss of employment for that normally, but it is not illegal to request a non-compete in return for severance. This is because severance is not legally required in any state in the country, so an employer has no obligation to offer it. Therefore, when they do offer it, they can place those limits and conditions on it that they want (provided that conditions themselves aren't illegal...like asking you to forfeit the right to file for unemployment).
On the facts you've given here, all I can say is that it is unorthodox but not illegal.
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