As a Florida business owner, you may have had to lay staff off recently. Or perhaps you need to do so soon. If so, you need to take care that a noncompete agreement you had them sign does not become an issue.
Are noncompetes valid in Florida?
Some states have abolished noncompete agreements. They claim they diminish the progress made when talented individuals are free to move around. They also consider them unfair to workers. However, in Florida, these documents are still legal. For a court to uphold a noncompete agreement, it must meet specific requirements:
- Be reasonable in time, area and line of business: That is to say, they need to be specific. One size fits all documents will probably not stand up in court.
- Be justified: You must prove the existence of one or more legitimate business interests justifying the restrictive covenant. These could include trade secrets, specialized training, valuable confidential information or substantial customer relations.
- Be just: Ensure they are not skewed so much in your favor that a court might consider them unjust. You need to give an employee something extra in exchange for agreeing to accept the restrictions.
Take time to review your noncompete agreements. Consider updating them or doing away with those that are not strictly necessary.
Seek legal advice if you feel an ex-employee has violated a noncompete or is challenging theirs. While dealing with the matter through the courts is an option, it is not always the best one. You may be able to settle your employment contract dispute through mediation. If you go to litigation, it could harm your standing with your employees and deter others from joining your company.