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A new client recently walked into our office with a complaint that their former employer filed against them.

Our Client/Employee: I signed an employment agreement before I started to work with my former Employer. However, I did not read the entire agreement because I was excited about the new job and was going to take it no matter what the document said. After working with my former Employer for Two (2) years I then decided to open up my own business doing the same thing. Our new office was located about Ten (10) miles away from my former Employer’s office. This is when the former Employer filed a lawsuit claiming that we had violated the non-competition clause in the employment agreement. What can we do about this? Does this mean that we have to close down our company like our former Employer wants us to? What are our legal rights?

In the state of Florida, a covenant not to compete clause may serve as a double edge sword. The purpose of a non-compete clause is to protect the employer from having a former employee share important trade secrets with the competition or to use them to start their own nearby company.

From an employer’s stand point, the clause may provide the needed protection they seek from having a former employee take valuable information. If an employer wants the clause to be enforceable, it must then be reasonable with regard to time, geographical area, and also protect a legitimate business interest of the employer.

As for an employee, you have to be very careful with what you sign. A recent study shows that non-compete agreements are now being used in most industries (hair stylists, retail, food, etc…). Moreover, one out of every five workers in the United States are bound by a non-compete agreements.

Before signing an employment agreement you should consider the following:

1. Do not sign until you have read the entire employment agreement. If you have questions or do not understand then ask for clarification before signing.

2. You can try to negotiate the terms of the non-compete before you sign.

3. If you have questions about any part of the employment agreement (not just the non-compete clause) then ask someone to clarify if you are not certain about something.

Remember that it is far easier for you to resolve your legal matters before you sign an agreement. NEVER EVER sign anything if you are not sure about what you are being asked to sign.

We are here to help you.

Attorney Edgar J. Guzman

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