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Understanding Employer to Employee Non-Compete Agreements in Florida

Non compete agreementsIn Florida, non-compete agreements are legally enforceable contracts, often between an employer and employee.  This, however, presumes the contract meets certain requirements.  In the scope of employment, the term “non-compete agreement” refers to an agreement wherein the employee agrees not to work for a competitor after leaving their current employer.  This agreement is typically only for a limited amount of time and often these contracts are signed as a condition of employment.

Employers benefit from non-compete agreements and can prevent current or former employees from:

  • Disclosing trade secrets
  • Sharing knowledge and experience
  • Sharing customer identity and/or contact lists
  • Taking access to other confidential and proprietary information with them when they leave

Florida Statute §542.335 details the conditions under which employers and employees can enter into legally enforceable non-compete agreements.  

Requirements of Non-Compete Agreements

In order to be enforceable, the non-compete agreement must be in writing and signed by the employee.  The employer must establish a legitimate business interest, which justifies the limitation on competition.  Under the law, “legitimate business interests” include (but are not limited to):

  • Trade secrets
  • Confidential business information that does not qualify as a trade secret
  • Confidential professional information that does not qualify as a trade secret
  • Substantial relationships with existing customers, patients, or clients
  • Substantial relationships with prospective customers, patients, or clients
  • Extraordinary or specialized training
  • Customer, patient, or client goodwill associated with:
    • An ongoing business practice or professional practice, via trademark, service mark, trade name, or “trade dress”
    • A specific geographic location
    • A specific trade or marketing area

When the agreement does not support a legitimate business interest, this renders the non-compete agreement unlawful, void, and unenforceable.

Length of Non-Compete Agreements

Non-compete agreements cannot prohibit competition permanently.  Instead, the agreement must have a designated time frame during which the agreement lasts.  In Florida, the length of time a non-compete can last varies depending on the nature of the business and the content of the agreement.  The statute addresses conditions where the non-compete agreement may be as short as six months and as long as 10 years, depending on the facts of a given case.  However, these lengths proscribed by statute are based on a “rebuttable presumption.”  Which means during litigation one party might establish a shorter or longer time is appropriate under the circumstances.  Alternatively, one party may establish the time frame is unreasonable. 

Understanding the Appropriate Scope and Length of a Non-Compete Agreement

A non-compete agreement that is too broad is legally unenforceable.  A non-compete agreement that is not broad enough may unnecessarily expose the employer to harm, as a former employee legally shares information with a new employer.  Non-compete agreements must be carefully worded to encompass the necessary information to protect the employer and business owner.  A discussion with a business lawyer solidifies the company’s needs, the relevant time frames, and the requirements of the law which protects the employer from unnecessary loss.  

Contact Portuondo Law Firm, P.A. For you Business Law and Business Consultation Needs

If you have a business, you need a business lawyer.  From transactional services, such as drafting non-compete agreements, to representation in contract disputes – up to and including trial – you need a firm with experience in these matters.  At Portuondo Law Firm, P.A., Marisa Portuondo offers personal attention, customizing her services to meet the needs of your business.  Contact us today to discuss what Portuondo Law Firm, P.A., can offer your business.  

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