personal injury - employment law - commercial litigation
Florida law permits a former employee to use and exploit contacts made known to the former employee through her prior employment. Indeed, in the absence of a covenant against competition a former employee is free to compete against her former employer using the contacts made known to the former employee during her former employment.
Florida law does permit an employer to require employees to sign a non-compete agreement as a condition of employment. To be enforceable, however, the agreement must be in writing and signed by the employee. Furthermore, the employer must prove a legitmate business interest justifying the agreement.
Legitimate business interests include trade secrets, valuable confidential information even if the information does not qualify as a trade secret, substantial relationships with customers or clients and company goodwill. Company goodwill must be evidenced by a trademark, service mark or trade dress or a specific geographic location or marketing area. A legitimate business interest may also include specialized training provided or paid for by the employer.
The agreement's time and distance restrictions must also be reasonable. In the case of trade secrets, the law presumes that a restraint of five years or less is reasonable. In the case of an agreement not predicated upon a trade secret sought to be enforced against a former employee, the law presumes a time period of six months or less to be reasonable and more than two years to be unreasonable. If the agreement is with a former franchiser, dealer, distributor or licensee of a trademark then one year or less is considered reasonable and more than three years to be unreasonable. If the agreement is part of a sale of a business then three years or less is considerd reasonable andmore than seven years is presumed unreasonable.
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