Covenants Not to Compete, which are more commonly referred to as non-compete agreements, are contract clauses in which an employee agrees not to start their own business (or go work for someone else) in competition with the employer. Each state approaches these covenants differently. Arguably, some tend to favor employees while others favor employers. Florida seeks to balance the interests of both. On the one hand, the state recognizes that employers need to protect their investment in their employees. But at the same time, our courts want to protect an employee’s right to seek work. Noncompete agreements generally cover four (4) different “restrictive covenants”:
- Noncompete covenant. In its simplest terms, an agreement by the key employee not to take a job dong the same kind of tasks with a competitor;
- Nondisclosure covenant. An agreement by a key employee not to disclose trade secrets or other confidential information to third parties;
- Nonsolicitation of Customers covenant. An agreement not to solicit the existing or targeted customers of the business; and
- Nonsolicitation of Employees covenant. An agreement not to hire away other employees of a company to work for a competitor.
Florida law, specifically section 542.335, Florida statutes, generally authorizes courts to enforce non-compete and other post-employment restrictive covenants, provided the agreements are in writing and signed by the employees against whom enforcement is sought. The agreements must also be reasonable in time, area, line of business, and are supported by one or more legitimate business interests supporting the restrictive covenants. A legitimate business interest generally includes trade secrets, confidential or proprietary information, and key relationships with pivotal customers.
There is no standard, easy answer for whether a non-compete agreement is enforceable. The courts retain significant latitude in itemizing enforceability. We can offer real advice and counsel based on years of experience with an emphasis on building toward a workable and efficient resolution. The Law Office of Nnamdi S. Jackson can review the relevant non-compete agreement, assess the relevant facts and determine the appropriate course of action.