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Woman looking for work after Subway enforces non-compete contract

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Leah Debene Leah Debene
EASTPOINTE, Mich. (WJBK) -

A woman is fighting to work at another sandwich shop after Subway enforced her non-compete contract, which she regrets not fully understanding when she was young and signed it.

"I want to be able to work. I'm a worker. I'm not somebody who wants to sit at home on unemployment; I don't want to be sitting around waiting for a year to be working," says Leah Benene. She was a manager at the Subway restaurant in Eastpointe on Nine Mile and Kelly roads.  

She worked for the company for almost five years, leaving back in August after getting sick and needing surgery. She missed a lot of work.  

"I did send them an email saying I needed a little bit more time off, and if that couldn't be granted then I might have to just put in my notice. I was still sick, and they had called me in that day to terminate me about 45 minutes after the email was sent," Benene explains to Fox 2's Amy Lange.

Several weeks later Benene got a job at another sandwich shop. But then she got a letter which contained a copy of the non-compete contract she signed back in December of 2009.

"I was first starting out; I was a young manager - brand new. I do not remember signing it so when it came back at me I was in shock," she explains. "I was like, 'What is this?'

It's a document - she signed - saying she can't work at a competing business within one hundred miles for a full year after leaving Subway. Benene also received this letter from the company attorney telling her she must honor the contract, and the lawyer contacted her new employer as well.

"They also sent the non-compete letter and the lawyer letter directly to that franchise, and, since then, I've been terminated from there," says Benene.

Fox 2 received the following statement from the Subway where Benene worked:

"Non-competes are an important business practice allowed by the state of Michigan to protect a company's business interest including protection of confidential information from competitors. Our view is that this is a matter of policy and has nothing to do with a specific individual."
- Nick Moschouris, Subway owner

Benene says she'll look for other work but is warning others to be careful what they agree to when they're young and just getting started and signing paperwork they don't truly understand.

"You've got to really understand what you're signing, because at this point, it has taken over my whole life," Benene says.

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