Can your current employer really restrict your future employment opportunities? Generally, Florida law gives employers substantial leeway in imposing non-compete agreements on employees. If you are about to start a new job and your employer wants you to sign a non-compete, you should generally avoid signing if you do not want to accept its conditions.
However, what if you want to begin at a new position and your old employer claims this violates the non-compete? You may have options that do not mean giving up what may be an important opportunity. An experienced attorney can let you know whether fighting makes sense in your situation.
Does the agreement protect legitimate business interests?
To be enforceable, Florida non-competes must protect specific business interests of the employer. An agreement that goes beyond this scope may not stand up to a challenge. Typically, restrictions in a non-compete must protect trade secrets, specialized training, confidential information important to the business, goodwill and established client relationships. The issue of whether a business interest is reasonable and deserves protection can be highly complicated and depends on the specific facts of a given situation.
Do the restrictions reach too far?
One common mistake employers make is including overly broad restrictions. For example, prohibiting someone from pursuing similar employment in a geographic area where the employer does no business can be invalid.
Restrictions also need to limit themselves to a reasonable time period. Generally, courts will not question an agreement lasting six months or less. Conversely, they will presume a period lasting over two years constitutes an invalid restriction. In practice, most courts will not invalidate an agreement for excessive length if the time period is up to two years.
Has the business held up its end of the contract?
Non-compete provisions often form part of a larger employment contract that specifies compensation and other issues. If the employer breached any part of the agreement, the employee may not need to abide by it either, including the non-compete section.
Is there a public health concern?
When it comes to healthcare professionals, the law makes an exception for the public interest. A previous employer cannot prevent a healthcare provider from practicing in an area experiencing a need. The public's need for appropriate medical care supercedes the employer's need to protect business interests.