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CHICAGO — Payday lender Check Into Cash is ending non-compete agreements for low-wage workers at its Illinois stores to settle a lawsuit brought by the state attorney general's office.

Check Into Cash was accused of requiring employees to sign the non-compete agreements in violation of state law, effectively preventing them from getting another job in Illinois at anything from a bank teller to a retail cashier for one year after leaving.

The lawsuit, filed in Cook County Circuit Court in October 2017, sought to end the practice by Cleveland, Tennessee-based Check Into Cash. The company is one of the nation's largest payday lenders, with more than 800 stores in 27 states, according to the its website.

"My settlement with Check Into Cash ends the company's inappropriate practice of limiting low-wage workers employment options by requiring them to sign unfair non-compete agreements," Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan said Monday in a news release. "Low-income workers should be free to use their experience to get better, higher-paying jobs."

The state alleged Check Into Cash violated the Illinois Freedom to Work Act, which prohibits the use of non-compete agreements for employees whose earnings do not exceed minimum wage or $13 per hour, whichever is greater. The minimum wage in Illinois is $8.25 per hour, although it's higher in Chicago and Cook County.

As part of the settlement, Check Into Cash can no longer require store-level employees who earn less than $13 an hour to sign non-compete agreements, and it must notify employees who are affected by the change, according to the attorney general's office. In addition, Check Into Cash must pay $75,000, which the Illinois attorney general's office will use toward public outreach on non-compete agreements.

Check Into Cash could not be reached Monday for comment.

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