Many employers think that forcing an employee to sign a non-compete agreement is a valid way to protect their business interests. Indeed, Florida is one of the few states in which non-compete agreements are enforceable.
Unfortunately, most employees will not have the will to fight a non-compete agreement after leaving a company, but this does not mean it is impossible to get out of this type of contract.
In this article, we will provide you feasible strategies on how to get out of a non-compete agreement in Florida.
Non-Compete Agreement in Florida – What Is It?
Non-compete agreements are legal agreements in which an employee promises not to compete with an employer’s business during a specified period and location, either during or post-employment.
Even though employers can utilize it as a way to protect their business’s legitimate interests, there are cases in which employers obligate or force employees to sign non-compete agreements with no reasonability.
If you have already signed a contract, it is possible to find a legal way out as soon as possible. In the following topics, we will cover cases in which non-compete agreements are not enforceable in Florida.
Inexistent Legitimate Interest to Enforce
As provided by Florida law, a non-compete agreement must comply with certain requirements to be considered enforceable. An essential aspect of a non-compete agreement is to protect a legitimate business interest.
The term “legitimate business interest” is defined by Florida Statute to include, but not be limited to:
- trade secrets,
- valuable confidential business or professional information that otherwise does not qualify as trade secrets, or
- substantial relationships with specific prospective or existing customers, patients, or clients.
Plus, it requires the customer, patient, or client goodwill to be associated with:
- an ongoing business or professional practice, by way of a trading name, trademark, service mark, or “trade dress,” and
- a specific geographic location; or
- a specific marketing or trade area, and
- extraordinary or specialized training.
It is not uncommon to spot employers trying to overreach their legitimate business interests. For example, there is no legitimate interest in forcing low-level employees to sign a non-compete agreement.
Another example is an employer who abandons a particular area of business, product, or customer that insists to enforce a non-compete agreement based on legitimate interest. Any employer who abandons a particular industry or geographic area has no legitimate interest in the area abandoned.
Reasonable Length of Time
In Florida, any non-compete agreement with a period exceeding 2 years is presumed invalid. While most courts will assume that agreements exceeding years are reasonable, there are cases in which a court has validated a contract with a length exceeding 2 years.
Regardless, the employer will have the burden to prove that the length of time in the contractual clause is reasonable. Generally, anything exceeding 2 years will be a hurdle for the employer to enforce.
Cases in Which Public Health/Safety Would be Affected
This topic is exclusively related to individuals working in specialized scientific and health areas, such as doctors, nurses, etc.
As an example, let us say there is a shortage of doctors in a particular specialty or a shortage of doctors in a particular geographic area due to a massive disaster.
In such cases, any employer cannot enforce a non-compete agreement, even if all the other requirements are met. The reason is that enforcing the contract in such cases would preclude specialists from serving public health/safety.
Contractual Breaches by the Employer
An employer will incur in contractual breach by failing to pay all compensation due and failing to meet obligations contained in the employment contract (if there is one).
In such a case, the employee is relieved of all obligations under the contract.
Cases in Which Information Considered Confidential is Readily Available for Public
Many companies in Florida get their sales leads from sources readily available to the public, such as phone books, professional directories, internet websites, notification services, and other similar sources.
If the source of so-called confidential information is available to anyone in the industry, there is no sense in enforcing a non-compete agreement to protect client sources. Even though there are protected customer lists and unique sources, chamber of commerce directories are not protected.
In this case, the employer will have the burden to prove that a secret client source is not available to anyone else in the industry. Otherwise, the non-compete agreement is not enforceable.
Get out of a Non-Compete Agreement in Florida – We Can Help You
If you have already signed a non-compete agreement, do not panic. Stay calm and contact an expert lawyer from Jurado & Farshchian, P.L., today to find a way out of this situation.