Now more than ever, employers must take active steps to protect their confidential information and trade secrets from the prying eyes of competitors. In our digital age, trade secrets can be misappropriated in an instant, and without the proper agreements in place, any business can be vulnerable. Recent major court cases involving companies such as Google, Amazon, and other industry giants highlight the importance of protecting such vital business information. One way to ensure your business is protected is to use restrictive covenants such as non-compete agreements to legally bind employees and ensure that valuable business information is not compromised or handed over to a competitor. While non-compete agreements were traditionally disfavored, and often prohibited outright by the common law, they are now making a resurgence as states throughout the country enact laws designed to protect employers’ legitimate business interests. Florida is a prime example, having put into place a statutory scheme setting forth in detail the requirements necessary to enforce non-compete agreements against former employees. To be enforceable, not only must a non-compete agreement be reasonable in time and geographic scope, it must protect a legitimate business interest and protect information the employer has tried to keep confidential.
Armed with the right knowledge and properly drafted agreements, an employer can prevent departing employees from taking confidential business information and using that information to compete unfairly. Gone are the days when an employee could defiantly state “My non-compete isn’t worth the paper it’s written on!” However, this process can be counterintuitive, and sometimes confusing, and there are many traps for the unwary employer. What should the duration of the non-compete be? How large can the restricted geographic area be? Which employees should I get to sign non-compete agreements? Can I hire an employee who tells me she has a non-compete with her former employer? What do I do if I get sued for hiring someone who’s bound by a non-compete? Do I have to pay my employees to sign my company’s non-compete agreements? All of these are valid and important questions faced by employers when wading through this area of employment law.