Non-Compete Agreement Review Law in Florida for Employees
Serving You and The State of Florida
Non-compete agreements are common in some kinds of industries. In general, if you are working with trade secrets or in product development, you might expect this agreement to accompany all of your work agreements. Even if you are not an employee of a company, you might be asked to sign a non-compete agreement when you work on contracted jobs.
This kind of agreement can lead to trouble for employees who have signed it if they are not sure about what they are agreeing to. There can be all kinds of added language in these agreements that is not actually enforceable by law and which should not have been included in the contract. The team at Lopez Law Group can help you to review non-compete agreements to make sure that you do not agree to things that are not legal or enforceable in the state of Florida.
What is a Non-Compete Agreement?
A non-compete agreement is a clause within a contract that states that employees will not enter into competition with their former employer when their contract or employment has ended. These agreements can also cover the discussion of trade secrets and proprietary information. They can attempt to limit the former employee from starting their own business or working in the same region as the company that required the non-compete.
While there are some kinds of limitations related to non-compete agreements that will hold up in a Florida court of law, many businesses try to add additional details that cannot be enforced or required of former employees or contractors. This is when it is very helpful to secure the advice of a legal expert before you sign any such document.
In the state of Florida, non-compete agreements can be enforced legally so long as they are reasonable with regard to the limitations that they contain and so long as they require reasonable timeframes. There are some general guidelines that are common to these agreements, such as restrictions of up to two years and no more. When the non-compete is found to be too broad in nature, however, it cannot be enforced and might be considered invalid.
It is important for employees to make sure that they are not signing documents that will make it impossible for them to continue working if their employer fires them or they leave the company. It is also key to have these agreements reviewed before you sign them so that you do not have to navigate a lengthy court process to have a broad non-compete declared non-binding.
What Are the Components of a Non-Compete?
There are some common factors that are included in non-compete agreements. These are not standardized, and companies can include or disregard any of these details in the agreement that they ask staff to sign.
This is a very common inclusion and it is one of the areas where many companies make their non-compete agreements too broad to stand up to legal scrutiny. The common maximum duration of a non-compete in the state of Florida is two years. Many businesses limit their agreements to 6 months. Long-term agreements are usually more common when trade secrets and proprietary information are part of the daily workload for a team member.
Duration of contract is often very tenuous to defend when it comes to non-compete agreements. There are many reasons that this kind of agreement can be found to be incorrectly drafted and the duration that is requested might also be problematic. If you are not sure that you want to sign a non-compete in the first place, the duration of the contract that is proposed can be a key determining factor in your choice to look for another job.
Many companies will limit employees from working within a specific area after they are released from their hiring contract. This might limit staff from working within a 50-mile radius of the company, for example. When this part of the contract is too broad, the non-compete can be invalidated. People who have worked for a company that is protecting its interests should not have to move to another state or city to be able to get a job. This clause is also only in effect for as long as the non-compete duration. The clause related to geography cannot have a different timeline than the overall non-compete effective time period.
The non-compete will need to outline specific kinds of work that the employee cannot engage in during the duration of the non-compete. This might be work related to specific procedures, in certain fields, or with certain other businesses. The scope can be tricky to enforce, however, since companies are not aware of the work that is being done at other companies by former employees.
Companies might also define which businesses that their former staff cannot work for during the duration of the non-compete. This is a tricky clause to add to this kind of agreement, and it is often not enforceable. This is also a red flag for non-compete agreements that are too restrictive in nature. This kind of clause can greatly limit employment opportunities for those who have signed this kind of non-compete.
The non-compete will usually indicate the damages that the company will seek if a former employee should break the contract that they agreed to. These damages are usually partially guided by law, but companies can sometimes try to sneak in damage clauses that are unreasonable. Having a lawyer look over this part of a non-compete can be a really good idea. This part of the agreement should not seek to secure unnecessarily broad or harsh consequences for breaking a non-compete.
Which Industries Use Non-Compete Agreements?
Many industries use these kinds of agreements as part of their hiring process. Any company can attempt to have employees sign this kind of document, but they need to be able to prove that they have a business interest that they are protecting for the document to be enforceable and legally viable. This is where these agreements can often be found to be superfluous in a court of law.
The most common industries where you might see non-compete agreements as part of your hiring process are:
- Product development
- Information technology
- Corporate management
- Financial services
Television and film industry jobs are often also accompanied by a required non-compete, and some other kinds of creative work will require that a non-compete is signed for someone to be hired. Businesses that work with contract staff are also more likely to ask for a non-compete since these people are not true employees and are not subject to the other requirements of the business like a full-time regular staff member would be.
Due to the many problems that can arise from these kinds of agreements being too broad, the history of these contracts with regard to court decisions is quite varied. This can make it hard to assume that the non-compete that you signed will hold up in a court of law. You will need to ask for the advice of a skilled legal expert if you are looking to break your non-compete. Each document is unique, and there are often many different potential reasons that the non-compete might not be enforceable by law.
The team at Lopez Law will be happy to look into any non-compete agreement that you have signed. We have years of experience in these cases and we are familiar with the reasons that this non-compete might not be valid. Many non-compete agreements are too broad to be enforceable, and this might be the case with yours as well. Your lawyer can verify the language of the non-compete and look for instances where it is too broad or where it is asking for requirements that cannot be asked of employees.
This kind of scrutiny of a non-compete can be very helpful if you are attempting to break the one that you signed or in the instance that you did not realize that you had signed such a document. While not every non-compete can be broken, there are usually portions of a non-compete that cannot be enforced and which are not legally acceptable. This kind of information can help you to be able to secure a new job or confirm that you are able to do things like start your own business working in your field.
What Factors Are Required for a Non-Compete to be Valid?
There are some factors that your lawyer will look for when considering the validity and reasonable nature of a non-compete that you have been asked to sign. The first consideration is whether or not the company asking for the non-compete even has a business interest that can be protected with such a document. It is not uncommon for companies to seek this kind of agreement when they actually do not have anything to protect under this kind of clause or document. You do not have to sign a non-compete agreement if there is no business interest that is threatened by your knowledge of company policies and practices.
Employees must also be exposed to proprietary information or trade secrets for these contracts to be enforceable in most cases. This means that someone who is working in a position where no secret or proprietary information is exchanged cannot usually be asked to sign a non-compete. If you are working in a call center or as a receptionist for a company that makes proprietary products, you are not likely to be exposed to any information that needs to be protected. This is just one example of a situation that might make a non-compete extraneous and unnecessary.
Those working in sales or who have administrative awareness of a business of this type will almost always need to sign a non-compete. However, even in these positions, you still might not be exposed to any kind of information that necessitates this limitation being placed on you if you should leave the company.
Having a skilled lawyer look at the non-compete agreement that a business has asked you to sign is critical when you work in a position that might not actually require this limitation. Many businesses like to place a blanket of requirements over specific job roles and titles, but often individual employment tasks make these contracts superfluous.
Why do Businesses Ask for Non-Compete Agreements?
Companies who ask for these kinds of agreements are eager to protect their individual processes and products, and they do not want anyone who leaves their employment to take this information with them to another business. This kind of agreement can help to protect companies from being outpaced by competitors, but it can be very unfair to employees of these companies. Many businesses that work in the development of products hire employees on a contractual basis. It is not uncommon for layoffs and other changes to the company’s workflows to lead to employees being released ahead of the end of their contract. Businesses wish to be protected from disgruntled employees who run to competitors to share the trade secrets they now know.
Being cautious about entering into any working relationship that requires a non-compete is a good idea for many reasons. Employees who are seeking a job in this kind of field need to consider what their options will be if they are released from their contract early. Will they be able to secure work without having to move to another city or another state? Will they be allowed to work in the same industry within a reasonable timeframe?
The answers to these questions can vary greatly depending upon the availability of jobs in the field and the limitations that the non-compete is asking for. For many people, there are major detractions to having to sign this kind of document, and the rewards of working for these kinds of businesses might not outweigh the problems that signing this kind of document could cause. If you are offered a fair and reasonable severance package after being released from your contract early, this might be an acceptable risk. However, this is not always one of the benefits that is offered to staff working in development or other related fields.
Lopez Law is aware of all of the considerations that need to come into play in deciding to sign a non-compete agreement. We have worked with clients from every industry and understand that non-compete agreements can greatly reduce employment opportunities in some fields. At the end of the day, signing a reasonable non-compete agreement that is legally enforceable is our client’s choice, but we make sure that they are aware of the possible risks that are associated with these agreements.
Can Non-Compete Agreements be Included in Hiring Documents?
This is one of the reasons that many people are not aware that they signed a non-compete agreement when they were hired. In many industries, a non-compete agreement is included in the hiring documents that employees sign when they are onboarded. This can make it impossible for employees to understand the true relevance and significance of having signed on the dotted line when they were hired.
Many employees only find out about the limitations of the non-compete clause that was in their hiring documents when they want to leave the company. Employers are supposed to indicate to new hires that there is a standard non-compete included in the hiring process, but sometimes this is poorly explained or not explained at all. In some instances, this practice can lead to the non-compete being invalidated. However, ignorance of the non-compete is not always enough reason to determine that the non-compete should not stand.
Allowing someone to look at your hiring documents before you sign them can help you to avoid accidentally signing a non-compete that you do not agree with. This is a common pitfall when working for large corporations, and the legal experts at Lopez Law Group can help you to spot and avoid this common issue. You might not end up working for the business that was seeking to hire you, but you will likely be relieved to have avoided signing a non-compete agreement that you do not agree with.
Working With a Skilled Legal Team Matters
When it comes to non-compete agreements, there are many variables that can come into play. The lawyers at Lopez Law Group have years of experience working on client cases related to non-compete agreements. We can look over a non-compete agreement that you have not yet signed, and we can also go over a document that you did agree to in order to check its validity. Many non-compete agreements are much too broad to hold up in a court of law.
Working with a skilled legal professional is key when you are asked to agree to a non-compete. Contact us today and schedule your free consultation. We will look over the non-compete that you have questions about and provide advice about what steps you should take next.
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