Tampa Bay & Central Florida Non-Compete & Non-Solicitation Agreement Lawyers

It is not uncommon for people to change careers numerous times in their lifetimes. When someone chooses to leave one career for another, it is a major concern of the employer that the employee will take information learned in previous jobs to advance their career with a former employer’s competitor, even if the employee has no intentions of doing so. While it is wise for any business to protect its own interests when an employee leaves and pursues another position, it is equally important for employees to protect their rights.

At Whittel & Melton, we help employees as well as businesses with all employment law matters. To find out how a non-solicitation or non-compete agreement works and how you can protect your rights as an employee or an employer, contact us online or call us locally at 813-221-3200 or statewide and toll-free at 866-608-5529.

Protect Yourself & Your Business

A non-compete agreement is a contract between an employer and an employee that essentially declares that the employee agrees not to pursue employment that would compete with the employer after they leave the company.

A non-solicitation agreement is a contract between an employer and a former employee in which the employee is prohibited from soliciting clients of the former employer, offering up trade secrets, client contact information and all other inside information.

At Whittel & Melton, we are experts in Florida employment laws that govern non-compete and non-solicitation agreements. As a business owner, our attorneys can help you draft and enforce contracts that protect the interests of your business. As an employee, our lawyers can help you understand what is reasonable and fair as defined by Florida employment laws.

We are dedicated to protecting the rights of employees and employers throughout the Tampa Bay and Central Florida area, including Tampa, St Petersburg, Clearwater, New Port Richey, Spring Hill, Ocala, Gainesville and The Villages. Call us today at 866-608-5529 or contact us online to learn how we can assist you with a non-compete or non-solicitation agreement.

Non-Compete/Non-Solicitation Agreements in Florida

Under Florida law, every non-compete and non-solicitation agreement must be in writing and signed by the person against whom enforcement is sought. Moreover, the party seeking enforcement carries the initial burden to plead and prove that the contract agreement is reasonably necessary to protect a legitimate business interest. Once a case has been brought forth, the opposing party must then show that the restriction is overbroad, overlong or for any other reason not reasonably necessary to protect the established legitimate business interest.

Non-compete/non-solicitation agreements are enforceable under the law when they are necessary to protect a party’s legitimate business interests. In order to meet Florida requirements, legitimate business interests include: (a.) trade secrets, (b.) valuable confidential business or professional information, (c.) substantial relationships with specific prospective or existing customers, patients, or clients, (d.) customer, patient, or client goodwill associated with an ongoing business or professional practice, a specific geographic location, or a specific marketing or trade area, and (e.) any specialized training. It should also be highlighted that the non-compete agreement cannot be used as to simply eliminate any area competition.

Non-compete/non-solicitation agreements must be necessary to protect a party’s legitimate business interests in order to be enforceable. Moreover, the terms of a non-compete or non-solicitation agreement must be reasonable in time, geographic scope, and line of business.

Duration of the Restriction

To determine whether a non-compete/non-solicitation agreement is reasonable in time, Florida law sets outside parameters, including four separate categories of covenants: (1.) covenants restricting former employees, agents, and independent contractors (2.) covenants restricting former distributors, dealers, franchisees, or licensees of a trademark or service mark (3.) covenants incident to the sale of a business and (4.) post-term covenants predicated upon the protection of trade secrets.

Non-compete/non-solicitation agreements enforced against a former employee, agent, or independent contractor are presumed reasonable if six months or less in time frame, and unreasonable if lasting more than two years. Likewise, a non-compete agreement with a former distributor, dealer, franchisee, or licensee is presumed reasonable if limited to one year or less, and unreasonable if it extends beyond three years in time. In regards to non-compete agreements pertaining to a sale of business, the non-compete is presumed reasonable if it is three years or less in duration, and unreasonable if it is more than seven years in duration. Post-term non-compete agreements based upon protecting business trade secrets are considered reasonable in time if five years or less and unreasonable if more than ten years in duration.

It is difficult to demonstrate unreasonableness when non-solicitation/non-compete agreements fall within the statutory parameters, as Florida courts generally rule that the time limitation is reasonable. However, if the non-compete agreement exceeds the time period allowed by statute, then the trial court will likely reduce the duration of the agreement.

Geographic Scope Must be Reasonable

Florida courts typically choose to enforce covenants that encompass the geographic area in which the former employee conducted business for the employer. It could be 50 miles or extend through several counties, and all depends on what the court considers reasonable for each unique set of circumstances.

Line of Business as Affecting the Non-Compete Agreement

With respect to the line of business restricted, Florida courts will decide whether the non-compete agreement is reasonable by considering the fact that the person seeking enforcement no longer continues in business in the area or line of business that is the subject of the action to enforce the non-compete agreement.

Customer Non-Solicitation Agreements

In Florida, the same requirements for a non-compete agreement apply to the enforcement of non-solicitation agreements. When it comes to geographic restrictions for customer non-solicitation provisions, Florida courts do not generally require geographical restraints. Additionally, Florida courts have repeatedly ruled that provisions simply prohibiting the solicitation of a former employer’s customers are reasonable.

Florida’s Blue Pencil Law

Florida courts have adopted what is called the “blue pencil” approach when it comes to enforcing non-compete agreements, and will not hesitate to revise an overly broad non-compete clause to make the agreement reasonable. The Florida Supreme Court has held that where the provisions of a non-compete agreement are unreasonable, “the correct procedure would be for the trial court to modify the agreement and award an appropriate remedy.” In addition, if an otherwise valid non-compete agreement fails to include a geographic restriction, the court will supply a reasonable restriction and enforce the agreement.

Contact Us

For more information about employer/employee law as well as non-compete/non-solicitation agreements in Tampa, St Petersburg, Clearwater, New Port Richey, Spring Hill, Ocala, Gainesville and The Villages, call Whittel & Melton today locally at 813-221-3200 or statewide and toll-free at 866-608-5529 or contact us online.

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