Can an employer stop you from taking a job or starting a company?
Sometimes, you take a job because you want to work your way up at a particular company. Other times, the job may just be a stepping stone in the development of your career. The information that you learn at an entry-level position at one company can help you acquire the skills you need to start your own business or obtain a better job in the future.
As you find yourself considering moving on from your current position, you may worry that you could face a lawsuit from your employer. If your employment contract included a noncompete agreement, can the company enforce it and prevent you from starting your own business or moving on to a better position with a competing company?
Florida judges will sometimes enforce noncompete agreements
Restrictive covenants like noncompete agreements are frequently part of employment contracts for those in highly-compensated or competitive positions. A sous chef might have to sign a noncompete agreement before learning a secret recipe. An engineer or designer may have to sign a non-compete agreement just to accept a job with a company.
Such agreements usually limit how a worker can compete with their employer in the future. Technically, the agreement only has an impact if your employer discovers you breached the agreement and then takes you to court. Sometimes the Florida courts will uphold noncompete agreements, but they expect that the restrictions are reasonable and that the agreement itself was necessary for the protection of the employer.
Overly broad noncompete agreements that don’t appropriately limit the geographic or temporal applicability of the agreement likely won’t hold up under scrutiny in court. If you didn’t receive something of value, like a new job, for signing the agreement, it may also not prove valid and enforceable in court.
You may be able to negotiate around a noncompete agreement
When accepting a new position, promotion or inclusion on a project team, your employer may present you with a contract, including a noncompete agreement. You could be in a position to negotiate with your employer to eliminate that agreement or possibly substitute a non-disclosure agreement. If if your employer knows you won’t share specific information, they may feel less worried about you working for another company two years in the future.
Learning more about noncompete agreements can help you review a job offer or plan for the future when you move on from your current position.