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Has a past employer accused you of breaching a noncompete?

Whatever the reason for leaving your job, you ideally had a new job waiting for you or you made finding work your top priority. If you left your former job on good terms, you may have used your employer for a reference and even detailed on your resume the skills and strategies you learned at your previous job. In fact, those newly learned skills and strategies may have been the advantage that won the new position for you.

Your new employer may have wasted no time picking your brain about the way things operated at your previous job. Perhaps your boss even offered you a quick bonus for pointing the company in the direction of potential clients you met at your old position. These or similar actions may have been the catalyst for your former employer notifying you of his or her intent to sue you for breaching your noncompete agreement.

Was the contract valid to begin with?

If your previous job included access to sensitive or classified company information, your employer likely included a noncompete agreement or covenant in your employee contract. This document prevents you from going to work with your employer's competitors for a certain period of time and within a specified geographic area. It also stops you from taking what you learn at your job and using it to start your own competing business. This may include ideas for products, methods of production or shipping, marketing plans, and customer relations.

Not all noncompete agreements hold up under the scrutiny of the Florida courts. Some factors that may invalidate your former employer's claim that you breached the agreement include the following:

  • The contract does not specify a time when the noncompete agreement expires. No employer can prevent you from seeking work in your field indefinitely.
  • The agreement includes a geographic region that is unrealistically broad.
  • Your new job is not in the same industry or does not include the same skills you used in the previous job.
  • Your new employer is not a true competitor of your former employer or is not in the same market.

If you signed such an agreement, you would be wise to read your copy to learn if your former employer's claims are valid. You would also be prudent to seek legal counsel about your options for defending yourself against the claims that you breached your noncompete agreement.

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Barker Cook

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Tampa, FL 33602

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