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Law Educator, Esq.
Law Educator, Esq., Attorney
Category: Legal
Satisfied Customers: 110378
Experience:  JA Mentor -Attorney Labor/employment, corporate, sports law, admiralty/maritime and civil rights law
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I was just off from a position Ive had for 10 years.

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I was just laid off from a position I've had for 10 years. There was no reviews saying my work was suffering or not up to par. I was just brought into a room, told I had been slacking and that they were letting me go. I had to sign a paper saying that I would not bad mouth the company or they would cancel my ability to collect unemployment. Can they do this? also, a couple of months ago, they had me sign a paper stating that I could not work for the larger company who hired my company as a vendor for one year, is this also legal? thank you
Thank you for your question. I look forward to working with you to provide you the information you are seeking.

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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Customer: replied 3 years ago.
What about the "no bad mouthing the company" or we will stop your unemployment. Can they legally do that?
Thank you for your response.

No, under RI law, the only way they can deny unemployment is proving you were terminated for good cause, which is some misconduct directly related to your employment or some refusal or lack of work. Any attempt to deny unemployment based on disparaging the company would not be upheld by Labor and Training unless the employer proves some misconduct directly resulting from your employment. However, disparaging a former employer rarely does anything good for a former employee either.
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