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South Florida sees more lawsuits regarding non-compete agreements

Unless you work in a highly specialized field or one with trade secrets to protect, you are probably not too familiar with non-compete agreements. But according to a recent news article, you may need to take the time to learn about these contractual provisions before you change jobs or sign a new employment contract.

Because the economy is still struggling, more businesses and industries are requiring and enforcing non-compete agreements, and South Florida has seen a high number of related lawsuits this year. Such legal action requires a lot of time and money, and it is having a draining effect on both employers and employees.

The good news for employees is that Florida is one of several states with the strictest laws against non-compete agreements. This means that if employers bring legal action against a former employee for violating the terms of the agreement, courts in Florida will likely deem the agreement unenforceable unless the employer can prove that the non-compete agreement protects a "legitimate business interest."

How would an agreement meet this burden of proof under Florida law? According to a recent news article, "Employers must prove that it's necessary to protect a trade secret, valuable confidential business information, relationships with prospective or existing customers, a business' goodwill, a geographic area and specialized training."

The bad news for employees is that many think they can't risk fighting a cease-and-desist letter from their former employer, even if they feel they are not violating the terms of their non-compete agreement. One Florida employment law attorney explains that, "The reality of it is the large percentage of non-compete agreements involve employees who don't have the money to put up a defense. Employers do."

The economic climate has been tough on businesses, but has been even tougher on many individual employees. Therefore, it is important that you don't allow a former employer to hold you back through a potentially unenforceable non-compete agreement. To understand your rights and options, you may wish to consult a qualified employment law attorney.

Source: NaplesNews.com, "In tough economic times, non-compete agreements are ending up in Collier courts," Aisling Swift, Dec. 1, 2012

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