There is nothing that says that non-competes are inherently illegal (for now, at least – there are proposed federal regulations that would ban their usage in an employment agreement). However, it does not mean that a non-compete agreement will always be enforced. A non-compete case will come down to the reason why one side wanted the clause and whether the agreement goes too far.
Whether you are trying to enforce a non-compete or have one struck down, speak with a non-compete attorney immediately.
There may be valid reasons why a business would want and need a non-compete agreement. Here are justifications for a non-compete clause in an agreement:
There are definitely circumstances in which non-compete clauses can be enforced by the court. On the flip side, there are other times when the non-compete is not worth the paper on which it is written. The difference lies in the language of the non-compete and how far it goes.
When a non-compete is found in an employment agreement, Florida law is more favorable to an employer. A non-compete may be enforceable, provided that:
Here are some examples of things that may be considered a legitimate business interest under Florida law:
Florida law is different from statutes in many other states. Florida does balance the interests of the employer with the effect and harm to the employee. Instead, Florida looks only to the employer’s interest. In fact, one judge in another state characterized Florida’s non-compete law as “truly obnoxious” in declining to enforce it when there was a conflict of law with the other state. All this is to say that employers have a much better chance of winning a non-compete lawsuit in Florida than they would in other states.
However, employers or business purchasers cannot do whatever they want in a non-compete agreement and expect it to survive in court. One thing that courts pay very close attention to is someone’s ability to earn a living. If a non-compete agreement goes too far and it closes off all ways for a person to support themselves in their chosen field, the court may strike it down.
Florida’s non-compete law is also challenging because the individual judicial circuits in the state do not always agree on the right outcome. The Florida Supreme Court must occasionally get involved to decide conflicts between the different state circuits.
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Against this backdrop is the possibility that the federal government may have something to say about a non-compete agreement. The Federal Trade Commission has taken a much harder line against these clauses recently, whether they are found in merger or employment agreements. The FTC may come to the conclusion that a non-compete is an illegal restraint of trade.
The very complex legal environment for non-compete clauses requires that all participants in a non-compete agreement need legal help when there is an issue of whether it can be enforced. Companies need legal counsel when trying to negotiate the terms of an agreement to give it the best chance of being enforced.
Employees also need an attorney to review their non-compete agreement if they are looking to change jobs or start a business. How employees handle their non-compete could mean the difference between being able to take a job or start a venture or being restricted by the terms of the agreement that they had signed.
Milian Legal Group assists businesses and individuals on complex issues relating to non-compete agreements. We can help you take a firm yet practical approach when it is necessary. It is always better to enlist the help of an experienced attorney sooner rather than later. To speak with a lawyer, you can send us a message online or call us today at (305) 788-6680.
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