Contact Lori M. Dorman
Noncompete and Restrictive Covenants Litigation
Let's say the new salesperson you hired doesn't work out. How do you protect your business information? If you are buying a business, can you ensure the seller does not start a new, competing business? If you do business in Florida, you can use a covenant not-to-compete (non-compete or noncompete agreement) to protect your business and business interests.
Often employees sign noncompete agreements without understanding how they work, when they're enforced and whether the terms are negotiable. Occasionally those agreements contain clauses that are completely invalid. Employers, employees and business owners need to understand that Florida allows for the protection of legitimate business interests through the use of noncompete agreements.
Here are a few facts about noncompete agreements in Florida:
- In order to be enforced, a noncompete has to be "reasonable in time, area, and line of business." It also has to be in writing and signed by the person against whom it applies. Before a court will enforce a noncompete, the business must show that it is seeking to protect a "legitimate business interest."
- A person or business trying to enforce a noncompete has to prove that the specifics of the noncompete are "reasonably necessary" to protect that business. Once the business meets that requirement, the former employee has to show that the restriction is overbroad, overlong or not reasonably necessary to protect the business.
- Courts have the ability to rewrite noncompetes, making them shorter in duration or reducing their geographic area.
- Because of the potential damage to a business if a former employee or the seller of a business violates a noncompete agreement, courts can issue specific orders that prevent that person from unfairly competing (temporary and permanent injunctions).
- Courts also have the ability to award money damages for injuries to the business caused by a violation of a noncompete. They also can award attorneys' fees, even if the noncompete clause doesn't provide for them.
Businesses and former employees with noncompetes have a lot to lose, which means there has been a lot of litigation over the enforcement of noncompete provisions. The time a noncompete is negotiated is critical – you need to understand what courts will and won't enforce. Because of the possibility for significant harm to the business when a noncompete is violated and the statutory protections supporting a person's right to work, noncompete cases have to be brought and defended quickly.
Confidential information, trade secrets, price lists and client lists are all sensitive information employers want to keep private. I help businesses develop enforceable agreements and enforce valid noncompete clauses.
If you are being asked to sign a noncompete agreement, I can help you understand what you are signing before you sign it. And if you have a problem with a former employer, you probably have more rights than you know and we can help you with that.
Contact Lori M. Dorman Today (941) 747-0888