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In Florida, courts see more non-compete contract lawsuits

Florida is one of the states with the most restrictive laws against non-compete agreements. Because of that, some non-compete agreements may not even be enforceable in Florida's courts.

However, non-compete contracts are reportedly growing in popularity due to the current tough business environment. Naples News recently reported that about 12 lawsuits involving non-compete agreements were filed this year in Collier Circuit Court.

Here in Florida, the law favors competition between businesses. It thus states that non-compete agreements can only be used to protect legitimate business interests. In order to ask employees to sign non-competes and to later enforce their provisions, employers must generally prove that the contract is necessary to either protect a trade secret, valuable business information, relationships with customers, goodwill toward a business or a geographic location and special training.

Non-competes in Florida also have to be reasonable both in duration and geographic area. Generally any agreement longer than two years--unless it involves trade secrets--may be considered unreasonable.

Unfortunately, even though many non-compete agreements may not meet the legal standard to be enforced, former employees often give up if they receive a threatening letter from their former employer about violating a non-compete. Many people are not aware of their legal employment rights, and they do not know that if they contacted an employment law attorney, they may learn that the contract would not hold up in court.

There are actually two main points at which it may be wise to involve an attorney in such an issue. When an employee is first presented with a non-compete agreement, he or she would be wise to seek legal counsel prior to signing on the dotted line. Many employees might be so excited to have a job offer that they will sign anything, but these are contracts and they can have long-term implications on a person's career opportunities. The second time to involve an attorney is when an employer attempts to enforce a contract or accuses an employee of violating a non-compete.

It is often possible for former employees to come together with their legal counsel and former employer in mediation in order to come to a resolution that pleases all sides.

Source: Naples News, "In tough economic times, non-compete agreements are ending up in Collier courts," Aisling Swift, Dec. 1, 2012

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