Non-compete agreements in Florida must be carefully drafted to remain valid. Simply because an employee signed a non-compete agreement does not mean it will necessarily hold up in court.
Under Florida law, trade or commerce restrictions must fall within a reasonable time and geographical area, and must protect the legitimate business interests of the employer (as opposed to simply stopping fair competition). Whether you are an employee or employer, you should know the limitations of the enforceability of non-compete agreements and how they affect your ability to work or operate a business.
Employers can only protect legitimate business interests
Employers have a relatively narrow lane in which to work to protect their legitimate business interests. A business owner who hires a software developer, for example, cannot restrict him or her from taking a new position that involves any and all types of software. A business that, alternately, limits a former employee from working in an environment on software that is in direct competition will likely hold up in court. Additionally, restrictions against solicitation of clients, customers, vendors, suppliers and employees will generally be upheld, as will the use of confidential information or trade secrets.
Timeframes are relative
Florida’s non-compete statute expressly provides that a restriction for up to two years will be deemed reasonable. Therefore, restrictions greater than two years will likely be struck down by the court, or reduced to or below two years.
Every case is different
Florida restrictions on trade and commerce do not follow an exact formula. Though precedent is a valuable consideration, a judge will still examine non-compete agreements on a case-by-case basis depending upon the facts specific to the particular employer and employee.
Whether you are an employer or former employee with questions about non-compete agreements, consulting with an attorney about your options is advised.