Florida’s Non-Compete Statute

Mon, Sep 21, 2015

General Legal Issues

4350431493_768365989c_oFlorida Statute 542.335 is Florida’s non-compete statute. It lays out when a non-compete agreement can be enforced and the language it should contain.

One of the number one rules: a non-compete agreement in Florida needs to be written down. Verbal agreements are not enforceable, since it’s hard to tell the specifics of a verbal agreement due to personal tensions and the ability to dispute facts and tell lies. However, it’s possible some states would allow a verbal or implied non-compete agreement. That’s why it is important to know what your state requires.

The written agreement must be signed by the person the employer is holding to the non-compete agreement. This is obviously necessary, since anyone could type up an agreement after the fact and have it changed willy-nilly.

Next, the non-compete agreement needs to protect what the state calls “trade secrets.” Trade secrets sounds a little vague, but Florida does its best to specify the requirements of trade secrets as:

  • Something defined under Florida State Statute 002, the Uniform Trade Secrets Act;
  • Valuable business information other than something defined under State Statute 688.002;
  • Substantial relationships with clients or patients;
  • Specific activities in a general geographic area or arena of expertise.

Legal action to enforce the non-compete agreement must prove that the agreement was necessary and reasonable.  If a party has broken the agreement, their defense may be that the agreement was unreasonable in some way. The court has various ways to react to this situation, including modification of the agreement to make it more reasonable.  The court considers the time length of the agreement, the financial implications for all (but cannot be found to be only considering the financial consequences), if the person being pursued (and sometimes pursuing) under the non-compete agreement is the original person or a third party, and how the decision affects the public in addition to the parties.

Since you can see that fighting a non-compete clause can be a real issue (and a very time-consuming case) it would be best to have any agreement drafted by an experienced attorney. They can put their expertise to work in creating a valuable agreement that is hard to be contradicted in court.

Similarly, if you are being asked to sign a non-compete agreement, make sure that you really need to, want to, and that you truly understand it. It is a good idea to seek legal counsel of your own to ensure what you are signing is valid and fair. You also want to be sure how it affects you while at the company, when you leave it, and what you can and cannot do in a new profession or at a new company.
Your personal life could also be affected, so you really have to be sure you understand the non-compete agreement.

Attorney Christopher D. Smith, Sr. is designated a Board Certified Consumer Bankruptcy Lawyer by the American Board of Certification.  SmithLaw is located in Lakewood Ranch, Florida.  Attorney Smith concentrates on bankruptcy, civil litigation, probate, estate planning, and elder exploitation cases in the Sarasota and Bradenton area.  Call 941-202-2222 to learn more.  SmithLaw offers free consultations in certain areas, including consumer bankruptcy, probate, and personal injury matters.

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