Non-compete agreements, which are common for some companies as a condition of employment, can be tough. Non-compete agreements are intended to prohibit individuals from competing with an employer after employment has ended. However, non-compete agreements are not always enforced by our courts. Non-compete agreements must be reasonable both in time and scope. In addition, there are a number of possible defenses to non-compete cases that can be asserted depending on the particular circumstances of the case.
These agreements are often signed upon the commencement of employment. Sometimes however the employer will require an employee to sign a non-compete agreement at some point after the employment has commenced. Regardless of when the agreement is signed, the concern about non-compete agreements does not often arise until the employee leaves employment or is considering the possibility of leaving.
In Forida the employer must be able to show a legitimate business interest
Non-compete agreements can vary from state to state. It is important to determine the law of the state that applies to the non-compete agreement. In the state of Florida, the courts generally will not enforce a non-compete agreement unless the employer can establish a legitimate business interest. Florida law provides that any of the following can be protected as legitimate business interests:
Protecting trade secrets
Maintaining valuable confidential business or professional information
Preserving relationships with specific prospective or existing customers, patients, or clients;
Defending goodwill associated with an ongoing business or professional practice, by way of a trademark, geographic location or marketing/trade area;
Maximizing investment in extraordinary or specialized training
Non-compete agreement claims are very fact specific
However, establishing a legitimate business interest will depend on the specific factual circumstances involved. Many non-compete agreements will also include non-solicitation clauses prohibiting employees from soliciting former clients or customers or from soliciting former employees. These clauses at least in the state of Florida are generally upheld as long as the time period is considered reasonable. Non-compete agreements are common in some industries, universal in other industries, and unusual in yet other industries. There are many issues that can affect the validity of a non-compete agreement and the inquiry in any potential lawsuit is very fact specific. If you have an issue regarding a non-compete agreement, an attorney experienced with non-compete agreements should be consulted to determine whether your non-compete agreement is enforceable and, if so, what factors may affect its validity.