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Are non-compete clauses unfair for low-waged workers?

Florida employees are commonly forced to sign non-compete clauses before starting work with a new employer. This seems to make sense for high-level employees who could steal industry trade secrets and clients from their employer. However, what about low-wage workers who aren't very high up on the totem pole? Is it fair to force an $10-an-hour worker out of his or her industry due to a non-compete clause?

Since Florida is considered a "right-to-work" state, employers can let their employees go for no reason. Florida is also known to be a strong enforcer of non-compete clauses. These contracts ban workers from getting a job with a competing company for a specific period of time following the job where they signed a non-compete. In some cases, even if a worker is fired from his or her job, the worker will not be permitted to work for a competing company in the same industry.

Not all states are strict about enforcing non-competes. In California, for example, the state does not actively enforce these contracts. Other states engage in moderate, case-by-case enforcement.

According to one researcher, approximately 18 percent of American workers have signed a non-compete clause in their employment contracts. Fourteen percent of workers earning under $40,000 annually have signed non-competes. However, experts say that low-wage employees are the most vulnerable to the ill-effects of a non-compete clause. One of the reasons is because these lower wage workers have less financial capacity to remain unemployed during the period of the non-compete.

If you have been subjected to a non-compete clause that you feel is unfair, a Florida employment lawyer may be able to help. By discussing your non-compete clause with an employment law attorney, you can learn about your legal rights and options for re-employment, and whether you can fight your non-compete clause in court.

Source: CBS News, "Should low-wage workers have to sign non-compete agreements?," accessed Feb. 08, 2017

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