The business world has become so competitive today that many companies are requiring that their employees sign non-competition agreements (“non-compete” agreements) as a condition of employment. Our Miami commercial litigation lawyers know how these agreements are essentially restrictive covenants that limit the time, place and manner in which an employee can work if he or she chooses to leave a particular job. For example, if you work in the high frequency trading industry and you wish to work for a different company, your non-compete agreement may restrict you from working in that same field for at least one year. Whether this is fair depends on a number of factors.
In Florida, Fla. Stat. § 542.335 is the governing law regarding the validity of non-compete agreements. These restrictive agreements are completely legal so long as the following conditions are met:
• The agreement must be reasonable in time, place and manner, meaning the agreement cannot restrict your ability to work in an area of business outside the realm of your former employment;
• The agreement must be signed by the employee; and
• There must be a legitimate business interest for the imposition of the restrictive non-compete agreement (such as the protection of trade secrets, confidential business information, interference with customer base, the risk of a former employee going to a competing company that is within the same geographical area, etc.)
If any of the above requirements are not met, a court may find that the non-compete agreement is unconscionable as too restrictive on a person’s ability to work. Returning to the example above, if you work in the high frequency trading business and you sign a non-compete agreement that states you cannot work in the financial industry for at least one year, this should be considered an unconscionable restraint as the financial industry is so broad and is not limited to only high frequency trading.
Non-compete agreements serve an important purpose in the business world. There are certainly legitimate concerns that highly specialized employees will take what they learned with them to a new competing company in the same industry and use that prior knowledge to further the interests of the new company. At the same time, non-compete agreements can create serious problems when they do not conform to Florida law as defined above.
When Litigation Is Necessary
If you have signed a non-compete agreement and feel it is too restrictive to the point where you cannot find employment in your general field, you may need to speak with a commercial litigation attorney to evaluate the validity of the agreement. In an ideal world, you should have an attorney look at the non-compete agreement prior to signing it and get their opinion as to it’s validity and explanation of exactly what the Covenant means..,.
On the other hand, if you are an employer and you feel the non-compete agreement that your former employee signed is entirely legitimate and this employee is in violation of that agreement, you may have grounds for a lawsuit and a Restraining Order or Injunction. There needs to be a balance between the burdens placed on the employee when signing the non-compete agreement and the benefit the employer receives from the agreement.
It is always best to resolve commercial disputes outside of court. Extensive litigation can be time-consuming, costly, and very stressful. The earlier an issue can be resolved, the better. But, there are times when going to court may be necessary if either an employee or an employer is adamant that a non-compete agreement either is, or is not, in conformity with Florida law. Whichever path of resolution is taken, you need a highly experienced commercial litigation attorney on your side advocating for your rights.
Contact Our Miami Commercial Litigation Attorneys Today To Schedule Your Free Consultation
Greenberg Stone and Urbano is a South Florida law firm employing attorneys with over 100 years of combined experience. Our Miami Commercial Litigation Lawyers have successfully advocated on behalf of their clients regarding commercial disputes between companies as well as employers and employees. Our attorneys have earned the title of “Superlawyers,” designating them as some of the best lawyers in America. Our Miami Commercial Litigation Lawyers have also been rated “AV” by Martindale Hubbell and have been voted “South Florida’s Top Rated Lawyers” by the Miami Herald. They have also been invited to be members of Primerus, an international society of leading law firms. Call Greenberg Stone and Urbano today to schedule your free consultation to discuss your potential claim. You may contact us through our website or call us at (888) 499-9700 or (305) 595-2400.