Beware of Non-Compete Clauses in Your Employment or Severance Agreement
Accepting a new job is always an exciting time. Similarly, leaving an existing job can be exciting or stressful depending on the circumstances. In either case, it can be easy to overlook the fine print on your employment or severance agreement. If you notice that a non-compete clause or similar language has been included, however, you should definitely take notice and take the time to consider the real implications it could have on your career.
Non-compete clauses are contractual agreements that prevent an employee from engaging in similar work within a certain geographic area for a certain period of time after leaving a company. These types of arrangements are common in professional fields and other occupations that involve close contact with clients. Their purpose is to prevent an employee from coming into a firm, developing close relationships with the firm’s clients and then leaving the firm and taking the clients.
Because the potential for abuse is so high, many courts look upon non-compete contracts dubiously, and Florida law strictly limits when these agreements can be enforced:
- They must be in writing and signed by the party to be bound.
- They must protect a legitimate business interest.
- They must be of reasonable length, scope and duration to protect that interest.
That being said, however, these agreements are still frequently enforceable. Therefore, if you have been asked to sign one as an incoming or outgoing employee, you should carefully consider how the restrictions could affect your career and negotiate for consideration adequate to offset that sacrifice. Whether you are negotiating a contract that contains such a provision or a former employer is attempting to enforce such an agreement against you, an experienced Florida employment law attorney may be able to help.