Clients often believe that non-compete agreements are not worth the paper they are written on. Others are convinced that a signed non-compete agreement will automatically be enforced as long as the agreement is reasonable in time and geographic area. The truth may lie in between. In Florida, a non-compete supported by a legitimate business interest may be enforced. Injunctive relief is the favored method of enforcement. Legitimate business interests include trade secrets, valuable confidential information, and substantial relationships with customers and specialized training.
Florida courts are split on whether the protection of referral sources is a legitimate business interest that may support enforcement of a non-compete. Referral sources are often the lifeblood of a business. For example, a home health care company often gets its patients from a referring doctor or hospital employee. The sales rep typically has the relationship with the referral sources. When the sales rep leaves, the referral sources may leave as well. There are many other businesses that count on referral sources for business and may look to protect these referral sources through non-competes. Whether you can count on protecting your referral sources may depend on which Florida court would hear the dispute and the wording of the non-compete.