Here’s a fundamental truth about the non-compete agreement you just signed – it’s utterly worthless – unless it’s enforceable. If you are working in Miami, Broward, Palm Beach, or anywhere else in Florida for that matter, that non-compete you signed may very well prevent you from employment in certain circumstances. Sounds confusing, right? Actually, it isn’t.
Essentially, a non-compete agreement is a legal document in which you promise not to work for and/or divulge certain facts to any business that “competes” with your company – usually in a specified region, for a specified period.
The provisions set forth in Florida Statute Section 542.335, along with a plethora of Florida case law regulate these types of agreements. These rules dictate that non-compete agreements can only be enforced if they meet certain criteria; namely that they are made in writing, signed by the employee, and safeguard legitimate business interests. Furthermore, they ensure these agreements can only be enforced if certain terms, such as those pertaining to the duration of the agreement, are appropriate, or “reasonable” by legal standards.
So what are “legitimate business interests?” Basically, this term applies to any proprietary information or similar knowledge vital to the successful operation of a business and that could potentially undermine it if disclosed to competitors. Under Florida statute 542.335, they can be classified as any or all of the following:
- Any material/information legally recognized as a trade secret under state law
- Any valuable confidential business or professional information that otherwise does not satisfy the legal definition of a trade secret in Florida
- Important relationships with certain people such as prospective or existing customers, patients, or clients.
- Loyalty based on the company’s trade name, trademark, service mark, or related means of identification; its specific geographic location; or a specific marketing or trade area.
- Remarkable or unique training.
You may also be wondering what constitutes a “reasonable” duration in this context. In other words, how long can you, and should you be required to comply with a non-compete agreement. To a significant extent, that depends on your specific circumstances. Under applicable Florida state laws, however, an employee/employer non-compete provision in place for six months or less is considered “reasonable.” Conversely, any such non-compete agreement lasting for more than two years is considered “unreasonable. The statute, however, does not address non-compete agreements in Florida with a duration in between those two lengths (i.e. between six months to two years).
What is considered “reasonable” with respect to any limitations on geographic region also varies. There is, however, legal precedence for enforcement within a certain distance of where the former employer is based or does business.
Finally, you may also be curious about the applicable penalties – if any – for breaching a non-compete agreement in Florida. In most cases your employer or former employer will ask the court to take action that will prevent you from continuing your employment for a competitor or from continuing to divulge sensitive information. In some cases, a company may also seek monetary damages, although such damages are generally less likely to be awarded by a court.
If you work in the Florida real estate or medical industry, or any industry where you’re privy to confidential information essential to your employer’s business, you may be required to sign a non-compete agreement. If you have already done so and now have questions or concerns about how it was drafted or whether it is enforceable, contact the legal team at Eskander Loshak LLP today.
Likewise, if you are starting or already own a business, you want to ensure that any specialized training, contacts, and knowledge that you provide is protected. Don’t take the risk of using some template online that won’t ever hold up in court. We can help you custom tailor a non-compete agreement that will be enforceable in any Florida court.