Have you been asked to sign a non-compete agreement in Florida? If so, it is important to be aware of the legal issues surrounding a non-compete agreement in Florida — and your rights. Dedicated professionals in employment law can advocate for your legal rights. But first, you need to know what’s legal and what’s not.
What is a Non-Compete Agreement?
It is an agreement typically between an employee and an employer that addresses the issue of competition. It can cover a variety of provisions, but the main component of a non-compete agreement in Florida is language wherein the employee agrees not to compete (either directly or indirectly) with the employer’s business for a certain period of time following his/her employment.
Non-compete agreements can cover anything from concerns about taking clients or utilizing proprietary or other valuable information/ideas that would be in direct competition with the company. Depending on the agreement, the language could be very specific or couched in very broad terms. The agreements are not restricted to regular employees. They can also include contractors, consultants, or even individuals involved in the sale of a business.
What Are the Laws in Florida that Address Non-Compete Agreements?
Florida’s non-compete statute, Fla. Stat. § 542.335, is under Title XXXIII for the Regulation of Trade, Commerce, Investments, and Solicitations. A non-compete agreement is enforceable if it is supported by a “legitimate business interest”. If there is no legitimate business interest to protect, the agreement will not be enforceable. A legitimate business interest may include but is not limited to:
- Trade secrets
- Other valuable professional or confidential business information
- Substantial relationships with specific prospective or existing customers, patients, or clients
- Customer, patient, or client goodwill associated with a specific geographic location, marketing, specialized training, or other business practices associated with the trademark, etc.
The above may include client lists, client data, product information, sales tactics, and restrictions of competition in geographical areas including a city, county, or even a larger geographic region.
How Do I Know if the Agreement is Legal and/or Enforceable?
Experienced employment law attorneys work with diverse clients and industries regarding non-compete agreements all the time —including potential wrongful termination cases. They can help answer questions and fight for your rights as an employee/former employee. The general aspects of the law can be complicated, but the good thing is that the initial burden of proof for the “legitimate business interest” is on the employer.
If the employer does succeed in proving the business interest is legitimate, an employee can still attack the agreement if it is overbroad, for example, or otherwise defective. As a general rule, the shorter the time frame and the smaller the geographic area — the easier the agreement is to enforce. It should be noted that if the geographic area is too broad, for example, a court may rewrite the overboard provision to save the agreement but on more narrowly defined terms.
What Are the Different Ways to Enforce a Non-Compete Agreement in Florida?
There are a variety of ways the law allows these types of agreements to be enforced. Depending on the details and the severity of the case, employees/former employees may have the following options:
- Obtaining a temporary or preliminary injunction
- Obtaining a permanent injunction
- Awarded monetary damages including unpaid wages and commissions
- Filing a claim against a third party (such as a new employer)
If you have refused to sign a non-compete agreement and were later terminated, you could have a case for wrongful termination.
What Would Make a Non-Compete Agreement in Florida Not Legal?
Most challenges to a non-compete agreement are based on a claim that the language that is overbroad or that it unfairly hinders an employee’s ability to find work in his/her field. Depending on your position within the company, a non-compete agreement could be a true overreach and considered unnecessary and therefore unlawful.
As mentioned above, the time frame included in the contract is important as well. If it amounts to an ordinate amount of time that would be particularly punishing on the individual, you may have a case too. In Florida, two years is a pretty standard restriction. Some courts have allowed additional time even up to three years, but every case turns on the facts of the particular employment relationship, business interest at issue, and scope of the restrictions in the agreement.
What Else Do I Need To Know?
Sometimes, if an employee refuses to sign a non-compete agreement, employers will not go as far as firing the individual but can create a hostile work environment. If this occurs, the employee may have a different type of case that is included under employment law. You may qualify and be entitled to remedial actions under the law for:
- Sex, Age, or Race Discrimination
- Sexual Harassment
- Workers’ Compensation Retaliation Claim Filing
It is important to understand that you, as an employee, have a number of rights that are covered by state and national laws.
What Should I Do if I Feel I May Have a Case Against My Employer?
The law addressing non-compete agreements is complex. Attorneys specializing in advocating for the rights of employees can help. If you have questions surrounding a non-compete agreement in Florida, contact Wenzel, Fenton, Cabassa P.A. today.
You don’t have to deal with it alone. We understand what you are going through affects more than just you. It affects your family too. Whether it’s financial or emotional, workplace violations can have a larger impact than most are aware. That’s why we tackle any workplace violation aggressively and with you, and your family, in mind.