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Richard, Attorney
Category: Legal
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Experience:  Attorney with 29 years of experience.
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I groom dogs and my employer wants me to sign a contract

Customer Question

I groom dogs and my employer wants me to sign a contract that states if I get fired or quit I can't work for someone else as a groomer for 18 months. This is my only way of making money. If I don't sign I get fired tomorrow. Is this legal ? I need the work but if he fires me 3 months from now I am not able to make a living.
Submitted: 2 months ago via Cornell Legal Info Institute.
Category: Legal
Expert:  Richard replied 2 months ago.

Hi Vanessa. My name is ***** ***** I will be helping you today! It will take me just a few minutes to type a response to your question. Thanks for your patience!

Expert:  Richard replied 2 months ago.

Although your employer does have the right to require you to sign such an agreement, it's not likely, given your facts, to be an enforceable agreement should he ever try to enforce it. First, because you are already employed and are basically getting nothing in return for signing, it's likely to be held invalid for lack of consideration. West Virginia courts have not directly ruled on whether the continued employment is sufficient consideration or benefit to the employee in exchange for agreeing to not compete. Second, to be enforceable, a non compete agreement must be reasonable in both scope of time and area. Additionally, the court will balance the proprietary need of the employer to protect its business with the employee's ability to earn a living in his or her chosen profession. Further, non compete agreements are expensive to enforce and, while they are enforceable, courts tend to look for fairly egregious behavior on the employee's part to uphold them. To be enforced, non compete agreements must be narrowly written, fair to employer and employee, and be sound public policy. To be enforceable, the employer must demonstrate that it has a legitimate business interest in limiting your ability to compete. The employer's desire to limit competition is not a legitimate purpose. Another legitimate business reason (such as the disclosure of information of a proprietary nature to the employee or spending money to specifically train the employee) needs to exist to be enforceable. So, given your occupation, unless you were to actually use the employer's customer list to open up a business of your own within close proximity to your employer, in my experience, the employer would not have much chance of prevailing in any attempt to enforce this agreement.

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