Can My Employer Enforce a Non-Compete Against Me in Florida?
If you signed a non-compete agreement with your Florida company and your current place of employment is Florida and are thinking about leaving, you may be wondering if the agreement you signed is binding. By the same token, if you have already left an employer where you signed a non-compete agreement and are now working at another business, can your employer require you to abide by that non-compete clause in your employment contract?
In short, the answer is yes. Florida law permits non-compete agreements, known as restrictive covenants, as long as they are reasonable in time and scope. Under Section 542.335 of the Florida Statutes, these contracts that “restrict or prohibit competition during or after the term of restrictive covenants”, may be enforceable so long as such contracts are reasonable in time, area, and line of business.” To better understand what this means for employees, we should take a closer look at the law.
Florida Employers Can Control Business Competition through Non-Compete Clauses
Florida law differs from the law in other states when it comes to non-compete clauses. In Florida, businesses and owners may protect themselves by requiring employees, or franchisers in a chain, for example, to sign non-compete clauses.
Under Florida law, the impact of a non-compete clause on an employee’s future livelihood has no bearing upon the enforceability of the clause. In other words, even if a non-compete clause prevents an employee from earning at his or her potential, that alone is not grounds for arguing that the non-compete clause should not be enforced. At the same time, not all non-compete clauses are the same. The enforceability of a non-compete agreement and an employee’s situation regarding the possibility of enforcement should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. If you find yourself the subject of a non-compete agreement, it is important that you seek legal advice from an employment attorney before you accept a new position so that you know your rights and obligations. Even better, employees presented with a non-compete agreement should seek legal counsel prior to signing the agreement to understand the terms of what they are signing.
Enforcing Non-Compete Clauses in Florida Employment Law Contracts
Non-compete agreements certainly are not unlimited in their ability to restrict an employee’s ability to conduct business. The statute clarifies first that noncompetition agreements must be in writing and signed in order to be enforceable. Then, when an employee challenges the validity of a non-compete clause, the employer must show the existence of one or more legitimate business interests justifying the noncompete provision. The law defines legitimate business interests as some of the following:
- Trade secrets;
- Valuable confidential business information (that does not count as trade secrets);
- Significant relationships with clients or customers;
- Client or customer goodwill; and
- Specialized training.
Contact a Florida Employment Lawyer
While an employer may be able to enforce a non-compete clause as long as it has a legitimate business interest as a reason for enforcement, you may have defenses. Similarly, if you have been asked to sign a non-compete agreement or other restrictive covenant, it is wise to consult with an employment attorney prior to signing. An experienced employment law attorney in Florida can help. Contact Scott • Wagner and Associates today for more information.