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Basics regarding the use of a non-compete agreement

Many businesses in the state of Florida have trade secrets which greatly contribute to their success. To help protect those secrets, it is not uncommon for workers exposed to the information to be asked to sign a non-compete agreement. Because every business is a little different, these agreements vary from business to business.

In addition to trade secrets, non-compete agreements may be used to protect:

  • Extraordinary or specialized training.
  • Customer, patient or client good will.
  • Substantial relationships with specific prospective or existing customers, patients or clients.
  • Valuable confidential information.

What they all have in common is that they restrict where employees can work when they leave. In Florida, statute 542.335 pertains to non-compete agreements.

According to one expert in Florida employment law, in Florida non-compete agreements generally restrict the geography where a worker can go, as well as place a time limit on how long a former employee must wait before he or she can once again work a specific type of job. Generally a worker must wait two years. To be enforceable, both the geographical limit and the time restrain must be reasonable.

These agreements are often challenged. Depending on the surrounding circumstances a business may take legal action to get the former worker to stop working for a competitor. In other situations, a former employer will let it go and not challenge a former employee’s new job. The specific reasons for each decision vary depending on a variety of factors, likely including the expense tied to trying to enforce the non-compete agreement.

For the best possible outcome where trade secrets and non-compete agreements are concerned, businesses should work with an employment law attorney who understands the importance of including certain details in such an agreement. When it is violated, working with a lawyer can help minimize the impact on the business as well.

Source: Fort Meyers Florida Weekly, “Florida's Non-Compete,” Roger Williams, July 30, 2014

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