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NON-COMPETE CONTRACTS – Jacksonville Lawyers

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The Florida legislature has created laws that govern whether non-compete contracts may be enforced, and to what extent they may be enforced. Although the legislature has changed the law from time to time, any non-compete agreement that has been entered into subsequent to July 1, 1996 is subject to Fla. Stat. 542.335. Under this law, the non-compete agreement must be in writing and signed by the employee against whom enforcement is sought. The agreement must be reasonable in geographic scope which will depend on the circumstances, and it must be reasonable in time. With regard to former employees bound by a non-compete agreement, six months or less is considered presumptively reasonable under the statute, and two years or more is considered presumptively unreasonable.

The law also provides that a non-compete agreement may only be enforced to the extent that it is reasonably necessary to protect a “legitimate business interest.” Legitimate business interests include, but are not necessarily limited to, trade secrets; confidential business or professional information; substantial relationships with specific prospective or existing customers, patients, or clients; customer goodwill, and extraordinary or specialized training.

A company seeking to enforce a non-compete agreement may not prohibit its former employee from simply working for a competitor company or in the same field. Rather, the company must prove that it is seeking to enforce a legitimate business interest under circumstances in which the employee would otherwise have an unfair competitive advantage against the former employer. If the employer is able to prove that its former employee has misappropriated a legitimate business interest, it may obtain an injunction (a court order instructing the former employee not to do certain things) in addition to seeking damages. Many non-compete cases depend on the issue of whether there is a “legitimate business interest,” or whether the employer is simply seeking to prohibit garden variety competition.

These matters can be very complex and depend on the exact factual circumstances in any given case. The law firm of Magid & Williams defends employees who are being sued to enforce a covenant not to compete. The firm also advises employees with regard to any risks that may possibly result in a non-compete lawsuit. Whenever possible, the firm attempts to resolve these disputes informally before a lawsuit is filed.