Non-compete agreements are legally enforceable in Florida if they protect a legitimate business interest of the employer and are reasonable in time and geographic proximity. However, what is reasonable to the employer may not be reasonable to the employee. As a result, litigation of non-compete agreements is a common practice. First and foremost, an employer must prove that the employee signed a non-compete agreement. Second he must prove that what he is seeking to protect is a legitimate business interest. The employer is not entitled to simply keep an employee from working for a competitor if there is no risk of unfair competition. For example, a garage may not prohibit a mechanic from working for a competitor if the mechanic does not have any confidential information about customers or pricing of his former employer. On the other hand, if the mechanic was provided with a list of customers to call to remind them to come in for service, that list would be considered confidential and the employer would be entitled to restrict that mechanic from sharing that information with a competitor.
These agreements are typically signed at the beginning of employment but they can be signed later in consideration of continued employment. The purpose of the agreement is to protect the employer from unfair competition but in some cases they are not enforceable because there is no risk of unfair competition. It is a good idea to have an attorney review a non-compete agreement and give you advice on its enforceability. An employee who learns his previous employer is going to enforce the agreement should also seek prompt representation to avoid legal action and possible monetary sanctions or the loss of employment with a new employer. Not all non-compete agreements are the same and it is prudent to know where you stand.
Severance is money paid to a departing employee in recognition of years of faithful service or in exchange for a release of claims the employer believes might be made, but for the exchange of money. Unless an employer has a policy of paying severance or unless severance is contained in an employment contract, Florida employers are under no obligation to pay severance. Most severance agreement provide for payment of a specified sum of money and in some cases benefits in exchange for a release by the employee of any claims the employee may have arising out of her employment or termination. The claims released may include discrimination claims or other legal claims the employee may have. Severance agreements also contain a clause that encourages the employee to obtain legal advice and that advice should be followed. The employer is not looking out for the employeeâ€™s interests. Before signing a severance agreement, have the agreement reviewed by an attorney. The employee would be well advised to have an experienced employment attorney review the severance agreement and the reasons for the separation because in some cases, a better deal can be obtained. For example, if shortly before the employeeâ€™s separation the employee filed a claim of discrimination or complained to HR about her pay, or was terminated for refusing to engage in an unlawful practice of the employer, the severance could be increased to include more money and benefits.