The new forms came across your desk.

Keep in mind, you've been working for your employer for some time.

One of them is new non-compete agreement. It's either brand new, since the place you're working with is so small, they never made you sign one when you started, or it's an updated version to the one you've already signed.

At the bottom of your paperwork instructions, it notes you have three business days to complete the form, sign it, and return it to your employer - or they terminate your employment.

Three business days is roughly a "reasonable" amount of time in the legal industry, for someone to have documents reviewed by an attorney of their choice.

But what if you can't afford to have an attorney look it over, let alone find one and have them review it before that three business days is up?

It's a great question and one that many employees end up not having an answer for. Instead, they sign it, even if they don't agree with the terms, even if the terms limit them in their profession and ability to make more money down the road.

Why? Like most of us, we need to keep our jobs.

So we sign it. We don't feel like we have the power to actually "ask questions" or "discuss with our supervisors" without some form of repercussions either now or when it comes time do a round of layoffs later on.

In this respect, some people feel they are forced to sign the document out of "threat, duress, or coercion."

And I get it.

I've been there and felt that way myself.

It took me many years to realize that some of these forms are just simply put together by someone else and that many employers are at least happy to have an open conversation about this -- modifying the document that is.

And I've also realized that if an employer is not flexible or understanding on this, it's a huge red flag and an indication that our working relationship will not necessarily last.

It's painful and irritating to put it mildly.

After the second time of this happening in my own career, I started looking into the legal definitions of "duress, threat, and coercion" and what I found did not match our normal, lay-person understanding of the word.

What we felt is a subtle threat, subtle but effective arm-twisting (coercion), and that in turn, causes us to feel duress.

But it's not what is defined legally. What's defined legally goes into things a bit deeper with circumstances and situations and threat levels.

I was pleased that the legal course actually goes over all three in an easy to understand way.

The more you learn about these things, the easier it becomes to see the difference between what may be morally happening, what we're feeling as a result of it, and what the law will actually do about it based what is on the books.

Learning the legal system for yourself reduces confusion, lowers frustration levels, and gives actionable steps on how to manage these things.

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