It is common for Florida employers to include a non-compete clause in their employment contract, or to ask new employees to sign a non-compete agreement. When you sign this type of document, you agree to restrict professional pursuits that might compete with the employer’s business interests, now and into the future.
Why Do Employers Use Non-Competes?
Non-compete agreements are meant to protect business owners from employees who might exploit their confidential information, trade secrets, client lists, and other valuables. The contractual prohibitions pertain to any new business the employee might start or, upon resignation or termination, any new position accepted with a competing business.
Mind the Details
For the employee, a non-compete agreement can prove very troublesome.
Some of these agreements are overly broad, placing unreasonable restrictions on the geographical area in which an employee can work – and for an extended period of time.
If your employment contract includes a non-compete clause, it may be wise to have an employment law attorney look it over before you sign. If you have already signed a non-compete agreement and you’re ready to move on, this is another good time to seek counsel from a qualified lawyer. A breach-of-contract lawsuit filed against you could cost you your new job and wreak havoc on your career and financial well-being.
Fighting a Non-Compete Clause or Agreement
Although Florida judges often enforce non-compete agreements, it is very possible to get your agreement struck down or altered in court. If the judge deems your agreement unreasonable or too restrictive, it may not be enforceable as it stands.
There are several legal arguments that can be successfully employed to fight a non-compete agreement. These include:
If the non-compete clause is part of an overall employment agreement, the employer’s actions can void the agreement. An employer who has failed to follow through on any of the provisions in the contract may be guilty of breach of contract, which can render the entire agreement unenforceable.
Duration and Scope
A non-compete agreement may not be enforceable if restrictions on the employee extend for an unreasonable length of time or the geographical limitations are too broad. Generally, restrictions extending over two years may be considered unreasonable, and agreements should not range beyond the employer’s usual and customary business territory.
An employer must be able to demonstrate that the employee’s new venture is actually competitive with his or her interests. For example, if the employer’s marketing strategy targets tool manufacturers, a new marketing job in the healthcare industry may be irrelevant to his business interests. Or, if the employer’s “secrets” are accessible to the public, the agreement’s confidentiality clause may be illegitimate.
Labor shortages and emergencies may render some types of employees immune to the restrictions of a non-compete clause. This argument applies to certain types of healthcare and other specialized workers, but may include any important occupation where workers are in short supply.
Fight to Win
The Feldman Legal Group labor lawyers in Tampa have successfully represented numerous Florida and Georgia employees with non-compete agreements and assist clients with all types of employment contract disputes. It is important to note that if you do fight a non-compete agreement in court and win, your employer is on the hook for your legal costs and may even owe you additional damages.