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Restrictive covenants legal in most states

In order for my son to get a job at a prominent Las Vegas hotel, he had to sign a contract stating that if he quits, he can't accept a job at another hotel within a defined radius. That sounds like too much power for a company to have. Can his employer dictate where he looks for his next job?

You're alluding to restrictive covenants, which are sort of like forced oaths of allegiance that kick in after you quit. Such agreements are legal and binding in Nevada and in almost every other state, said New York employment attorney Alan Sklover.

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He said he believes that the courts uphold them "because the courts support employers' investment in employees."

Casinos, in particular, often make substantial investments in employees for training, relocation, required background checks and uniforms, he said.

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Some companies even contractually require new employees to pay back part of the cost of the company's investment in them if they leave before a certain date.

Sklover said the agreements usually aren't enforced when a judge finds that the distance, time or other factors are beyond what is reasonable. For example, a distance of 50 miles to the dentist would probably be considered unreasonable, because few people will travel that far for a dentist, but it would probably pass muster for a person who sells million-dollar yachts.

Your son, he said, should consider this perspective: "Giving your employer a commitment to stay for a certain period is a price to pay for a new job." But the training and experience "should be worth it."

Carrie Mason-Draffen is a columnist for Newsday, a Tribune Publishing newspaper. E-mail her at yourmoney@trib- une.com.


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