You have decided to leave your current job and accept a new position with a different company. You are excited to pursue a new opportunity and embrace a new challenge. Suddenly, your excitement turns to dread and anxiety as your current employer informs you they are taking legal action due to the non-compete clause in your employment agreement.
Non-compete agreements are valid under Florida law, specifically Florida Statute § 542.335.
Though, in order to be enforceable, there are some essential elements that must be present:
- The agreement must be in writing (i.e. no oral non-compete agreements);
- The agreement must be signed by the employee;
- The agreement must further a “legitimate business interest”; and
- The agreement must be reasonable in “time, area and line of business.”
What is a legitimate business interest?
Generally, employers cannot simply require that all employees sign non-compete agreements when hired. There must be some reasonable, legitimate basis for the non-compete agreement. Florida law has identified some specific legitimate business interests that would validate the enforcement of a non-compete agreement:
- You will have access to company trade secrets;
- You will have access to valuable confidential business or professional information; and/or
- Your work has created substantial relationships with specific prospective or existing clients, customers, etc.
Reasonable Amount of Time
Your employer cannot require you to sign a non-compete agreement that is enforceable in perpetuity. In fact, Florida law has set forth specific parameters for reasonable non-compete timeframes. For example, any restrictive covenant of six months or less is generally considered reasonable. Any restrictive covenant of two years or more is considered to be unreasonable.
Your employer cannot require you to sign a non-compete agreement that applies to the entire country. Generally, courts have allowed non-compete enforcement within a specific mile radius of where your former employer conducts business. For example, if your former employer is based in Fort Lauderdale, they could be able to restrict your employment in that area.
If your former employer opts to take legal action, they will typically pursue “injunctive relief.” This means seeking a court order legally prohibiting you from engaging in your new employment venture.
If this type of legal action has been taken against you, contact an experienced Fort Lauderdale employment law attorney. If you can show that the non-compete agreement was unreasonable and unenforceable, you could pursue reasonable attorney’s fees from your prior employer.
Contact an Employment Law Attorney Today
Non-compete clauses can serve an important purpose in many professional fields. But that does not mean they are always reasonable or enforceable. As you can tell from the information above, the enforceability of a non-compete agreement is a complicated area of the law involving trade secrets, proprietary information, the concept of “legitimate business interests,” the geographic range of the agreement, the time period of the restriction, and so forth. The office of Mark J. Berkowitz can offer advice, guidance, and legal solutions with respect to non-compete agreements. Contact our office today to speak with an experienced Fort Lauderdale non-compete clause contract attorney.