Perhaps you are a business owner who seeks to protect trade secrets that could hurt your company’s profits if one of your employees quits and shares this confidential information with your competitors or starts a competing business. Perhaps you are an independent contractor with skills in a niche market, and the non-compete agreement you are being asked to sign would mean that you would be barred from doing work for any other businesses in your region. Perhaps the non-compete agreement you signed at the beginning of your employment now seems overly restrictive, and you’re worried that you won’t be able to work anywhere else if you decide to quit. No matter your situation, a Miami non-compete agreement attorney can help.
What Is a Non-Compete Agreement?
A non-compete agreement is a legal clause in a contract that states you cannot compete with your employer during employment or after leaving the company. This agreement could also bar you from revealing company information to others during or after employment.
A valid non-compete agreement in Florida will generally include the following:
- A written and signed agreement
- A reasonable time period (generally 6 months to two years)
- A reasonable geographic area, depending on the business industry
- A clear description of the business interests the company seeks to protect
Why You Need a Miami Non-Compete Agreement Attorney
Florida often enforces employment contracts and is among the top states that support non-compete agreements. Non-compete contracts are not easy to navigate, and it is a challenge to tell whether the agreement is enforceable or not. Violating a non-competition agreement may have very severe consequences. The best choice is to seek legal counsel from an experienced employment agreements lawyer.
Your lawyer may attempt to negotiate on your behalf to reach a favorable agreement. If a resolution before litigation is unlikely, your lawyer will fight for your interests in court. A Miami non-compete attorney can advise you of your obligations as an employee or employer under Florida employment laws.
Understanding the Enforceability of a Non-Compete Agreement
Historically, Florida courts have supported employers when enforcing non-compete and non-solicitation agreements, even though these types of contracts are illegal in some other states. These types of agreements are governed by Florida Statute § 542.335.
An employer can ask an employee to sign a non-compete agreement to preserve the company’s position in the market at any time before or during employment.
Non-compete contracts have a specific time frame in which a former employee cannot compete with a previous employer. Additionally, the agreement should have a reasonable geographic range (depending on the industry and employee’s position) and duration. A court may find a two-year period that covers the company’s business area to be enforceable. Florida Statute § 542.335 provides that a time restriction of 6 months or less shall be presumed reasonable and a restriction of more than 2 years shall be presumed unreasonable by the court. If an agreement has unreasonably broad restrictions, the court has the authority to “blue-pencil” the agreement to impose less severe conditions.
A non-compete agreement can protect legitimate business interests such as investment in an employee including specialized training, corporate goodwill, trade secrets and other confidential information, or customer and business relationships. If the employer has no threatened business interests, the non-compete agreement may be found to be unenforceable by a Florida court.
Non-compete enforcement generally comes down to whether the company has a legitimate business interest to protect. A court will determine if a former employee has used that business interest in a way that promotes unfair competition. An example of such a case would be if a doctor left a medical practice to establish a new clinic in the same city, serving patients in the same medical specialty.
What Happens if You Violate a Non-Compete Agreement?
Generally, violating an enforceable and valid non-compete agreement may result in a lawsuit. The lawsuit might seek monetary compensation for losses suffered or seek an injunction against a former employee and/or the new employer or competing business, compelling them to honor the agreement.
In some cases, a former employer might seek both financial compensation and an injunction. Additionally, the court might bar an employee from working for their former employer’s competition for the duration stated in the non-compete agreement.
How a Miami Non-Compete Agreement Attorney Can Help
There are several instances in which you will want the help of a Miami non-compete agreement attorney. For example:
- If you are an employee: You leave a job for a new opportunity, and your former employer claims that you have violated the terms of the non-compete agreement. In this case, you should contact a non-compete agreement attorney to defend you and negotiate on your behalf.
- If you are the former employer: Your former employee, who signed a non-compete agreement, has left your company. You discover that your former employee has violated the agreement terms by starting a competing business and/or working with your clients or customers, putting the success of your business in jeopardy. You need the assistance of a Miami non-compete attorney to determine your next steps.
- If you are the new employer: You hire an employee who signed a non-compete agreement with a former employer. The previous employer now alleges that this employee has violated the agreement and/or threatens to sue your company for tortious interference. You disagree, and you seek legal assistance in defending your employee and/or your business.
If your employee left and started a competing business, you should contact an attorney immediately before your business suffers significant financial losses. A lawyer will help your business to enforce the terms of the non-compete agreement and avoid the loss of clients to a competitor. A non-compete attorney can file a lawsuit seeking an injunction to stop the competing activities immediately and seek additional damages, such as monetary damages for any loss of business caused by the employee’s competing activities.
If your employer sues you over a violation of a non-compete agreement, you should contact an attorney immediately. A lawyer will help you attempt to avoid a court order barring you from working in your industry and judgment entered against you. You might lose your job if your former employer threatens to file a lawsuit against your new employer.
For assistance in reviewing contracts and defending against the enforcement of non-compete agreements, contact a Miami non-compete attorney today for a confidential consultation. At BT Law Group, we serve both businesses and employees in all employment and business law matters.