Under Florida law, non-compete agreements may be enforced by the employer so long as they are reasonable with regard to time and geographical area, and protect a legitimate business interest of the employer as defined by Florida statute. Generally, restrictions of up to two years and covering areas where the employer actually does business will be considered reasonable by a court. Even where the restrictions in the agreement are found to be unreasonably broad, the court has the authority to modify the agreement so as to impose more reasonable restrictions.
Usually, enforcement of a non-compete will come down to whether the employer has a statutorily defined, legitimate business interest that can be protected, and if so, whether the employee or former employee has used that business interest in such a way as to result in unfair competition. For example, a non-compete may be found enforceable where the employee has taken a copy of the employer’s customer list containing confidential and proprietary information, and has solicited clients or customers using the information taken from the employer.
Non-competes may also be enforced where the employer can show it holds trade secrets that were taken and used by the employee or where the employee received extraordinary or specialized training as to unique sales, marketing or business methods practiced by the employer. On the other hand, Florida courts have generally been reluctant to enforce non-competes where the employee has not taken and is not using any confidential or proprietary information that would result in unfair competition.
For employers, non-compete agreements are often considered necessary to protect customer relationships and confidential information. An employee should consider consultation with an attorney before signing a non-compete agreement or, if one has already been signed, before going to work for a potential competitor of the former employer. Oftentimes, an employee can negotiate a resolution to a potential non-compete dispute without having to litigate so as to reach an agreement that will allow both parties to move forward without compromising or negatively impacting the interests of each other.
To obtain more information regarding employment agreements, including non-competes, please visit our firm’s website.