You’ve worked hard to build your business. You don’t want it all to come crumbling down because a former employee gave your competition a leg up on the market. But what can you do to protect your interests? One option is to utilize noncompete agreements.
What are noncompete agreements?
A noncompete agreement is an arrangement in which you and the employee agree that the employee will not go to work for a competitor for a certain period of time so as to protect your interests. These agreements typically specify the activities that are restricted, including disclosing trade secrets, and are limited in geographic scope.
Can you use a noncompete agreement in Florida?
Yes, but the agreement has to be appropriately tailored. Generally speaking, the law will support a non-compete that furthers a legitimate business interest, and its terms must be reasonable. That may seem somewhat vague, but that gives you some wiggle room to argue that a noncompete agreement is legally valid.
However, there are some factors that you should take into consideration when preparing to create or litigate over a noncompete agreement. For example, to show that the agreement is aimed at protecting a legitimate business interest, you may want to show one or more of the following:
- That the agreement will protect your business relationship with existing or prospective customers.
- That the agreement is necessary to protect trade secrets or other information that is valuable to your business’s operations.
- That the agreement is required to protect the goodwill that you’ve developed with your customers.
- That restricting the former employee is necessary to protect important business operations that give you an edge, such as specialized training practices.
What about reasonableness?
This is a gray area that is open to a lot of argument. When it comes to geographic restrictions, you should consider limiting the former employee’s ability to work for a competitor within the range of their actions during employment. If the business interest that you’re trying to protect is more sensitive, though, you have a better argument for a more expansive restriction.
You have to be reasonable when it comes to time and actions, too. If your former employee was a salesperson, for example, then you’ll have a better chance of enforcing a non-compete agreement if you can show that you only restricted that individual from working in sales for a competitor. The time restriction that you place in the agreement may be based on the time that the individual worked for you, or it might be based on the sensitivity of the business interest a play.
Enforcing your noncompete
Before your employee leaves your business, you need to make sure that they understand the terms of the noncompete agreement. Then, if they violate that agreement, your first step is to contact them to see if they’ll stop. If that doesn’t work, then contacting their current employer might be enough to get them reassigned to noncompeting activities.
If that still isn’t successful, you may be able to succeed in stopping the activities by sending a cease-and-desist letter or seeking an injunction. At that point, additional legal action may be warranted to recover any damages that your business has sustained.
Do you need an ally on your side?
Navigating these business issues can be tricky. But the stakes are high, and you want to protect your interests as strongly as possible. Fortunately, there are strong legal advocates out there who can help you fight to protect your business and recover the compensation to which you’re entitled.