Florida courts generally enforce non-compete agreements as valid restraints of trade or commerce if they are both (i) reasonably necessary to protect a legitimate business interest and (ii) reasonable in time, geographic area, and scope. §§ 542.18 and 542.335(1), Fla. Stat.
What Kinds of Non-Compete Agreements Are Reasonable in Florida?
For non-compete agreements that are not based on the protection of trade secrets, noncompete agreements that are six months or shorter in duration are presumed to be reasonable, while noncompete agreements that are two years or longer are presumed to be unreasonable. In determining whether a noncompete agreement is enforceable, however, it might be surprising that Florida law is different.
In Florida law, courts are precluded from considering any individualized hardship on the former employee who is subject to such an agreement. This means that while the former employee may be only one of a handful of others qualified to work in a specialized field, the court will not consider the hardship on that former employee in finding new employment, so long as the noncompete agreement is otherwise enforceable.
Non-Compete Statements Under Federal Law
Contrary to state law, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals held that federal courts must balance the potential harm to a former employee with the threatened injury to the employer when deciding whether to grant an injunction enforcing non-compete agreements under federal law. TransUnion Risk & Alt. Data Sols., Inc. v. MacLachlan, 625 Fed. Appx. 403, 407 (11th Cir. 2015). Thus, whether a former employee’s individual hardship will be considered at all depends on whether you are in state court or federal.
Accordingly, Florida state courts seem to be more advantageous to the employer with non-compete agreements. Federal courts must give weight to the former employee’s individual circumstances.