Although for many years, Florida courts frowned upon contracts between businesses and their employees that restrained an employee’s right to later work for a competitor, Florida law has recognized for over a decade a business’ right to do so by agreement, provided the restriction is reasonable in time, area, and line of business.
However, the agreement must be in writing, signed by the employee, and protect a “legitimate business interest” of the employer. Florida Statute 542.335 (1)(b) lists five such business interests the statute states may be protected in this manner, although the interests listed are not considered exclusive according to the statute.
The statute also provides guidance on what is considered a reasonable duration of time during, which the employee may be legally restrained from working for a competitor upon termination of the employee’s employment with the business with which the employee has the contractual restraint.
The statute also allows the business to obtain an order from the judge preventing the employee from violating this agreement and the business or employee to obtain attorney’s fees and costs for the lawsuit if that party prevails in the lawsuit.
Employers should seek the advice of an attorney, since agreements of this nature need to be drafted carefully to ensure that they are enforceable, and employees should seek the advice of an attorney before agreeing to sign such contracts so that they are aware of their rights.