In contravention of the general rule that any constraint on trade is undesirable, Florida is among a minority of states that presume a non-compete agreement to be valid. Although some employers will suggest that such an agreement is binding and they will act to enforce its provisions, a Fort Lauderdale non compete lawyer knows that in many cases the employee has options.
A Valid Non-compete Agreement
The restrictive covenants contained in a non-compete agreement must serve a legitimate business purpose. According to a Fort Lauderdale non compete lawyer, Florida law has identified the following interests as justifying the restrictions:
- Trade secrets;
- Confidential information that does not meet the definition of trade secrets;
- Substantial relationships with existing or prospective clients;
- Goodwill of an ongoing business; and
- Specialized training provided to the employee
To be enforceable, a Fort Lauderdale non compete lawyer will explain that a non-compete agreement must be in writing and signed by the employee. Because of the presumption that a non-compete is valid, it is up to the employer to prove the agreement is unreasonable to protect the business interests of the employer.
In evaluation the reasonableness of a non-compete agreement, a Fort Lauderdale non compete lawyer indicates the court will look to several factors, including:
Non-compete agreements cannot last indefinitely. Covenants restricting employees, for example, are presumed to be reasonable if lasting six months or less and presumed to be unreasonable if extending over two years. Where the sale of a business is concerned, the presumption of reasonable is three years or less and the presumption of unreasonable is over seven years. If the restrictions fall somewhere in between the two presumptive time periods, no legal presumption exists, but courts tend to find the agreement reasonable.
Courts typically limit enforcement of the agreement to geographical areas where the employee actually worked or for the sale of a company to the area where business was actually conducted.
Line of Business
The covenant must only restrict competition in the specific line of business the employee was engaged in, not every line of business the employer conducts.
Other Ways to Attack a Non-compete Agreement
If the non-compete was included in a general employment contract spelling out the conditions of employment, a breach of this contract by the employer may relieve the employee of all obligations under the contract. If the employer attempts to include all employees in restrictive covenants, for instance, this will likely be unenforceable. If the information the employer seeks to protect is available to the public or to others in the same industry, the non-compete will fail.
Rewriting the Agreement
Florida courts will often modify the agreement to render it reasonable and enter an appropriate award.
Contact a Fort Lauderdale Non Compete Attorney for Legal Advice
If you have a non-compete agreement in place and are considering leaving a job, call Mark J. Berkowitz, P.A., a Fort Lauderdale non compete attorney, at (954) 527-0570.
By Mark J. Berkowitz | Posted on September 2, 2015