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I am a RI attorney who as part of my practice handles employment law cases.
Employment in RI is considered at will employment unless you had some written contract
for employment that states something to the contrary. What at will employment means is that an employer can fire an employee
for no reason at all or for any reason at all that is not based only on the age/race/sex/disability and the employee has no recourse other than filing for unemployment benefits. Thus, they can legally lay off an employee for no reason or any reason other than your age/race/sex/disability.
Rhode Island also recognizes non-compete agreements. Thus, if you signed this agreement, legally you can be bound to the agreement. The RI courts look at these agreements based on whether or not they are reasonable in the scope of the interest they are seeking to protect the employer from and whether or not they are for a reasonable amount of time and cover a reasonable geographic area. Any agreement for more than 2 years after termination is not considered reasonable and the RI courts use the "blue pencil rule" on those agreements to modify them into something reasonable, they do not just invalidate the whole agreement. Similarly, the geographic scope of the agreement must be reasonable and what is reasonable depends on where your employer does business now and usually anywhere within 25-50 miles of where they do business is considered reasonable. Again, the court can blue pencil a clause to make it reasonable if it is not reasonable.
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