The problem is not uncommon: an employee with knowledge of highly valuable trade secrets and other confidential information advises you that he or she is leaving your company and intends on working for a competitor. While employers typically use non-compete agreements to prevent employees from revealing sensitive business information to competing companies, they can sometimes be ignored or rendered unenforceable. Other times, employers fail to take proactive measures to protect themselves, which leaves them vulnerable to competitors.
Notwithstanding, there is hope for corporate employers who are facing these types of serious issues. In 1988, the Florida Legislature enacted the Florida Uniform Trade Secrets Act[J1], (FUTSA) which allows for a former employer to obtain injunctive relief, monetary damages and sometimes attorneys’ fees if he or she can prove: i) the existence of a trade secret, and ii) that the former employee has actually misappropriated the trade secret or is threatening to do so.
Overall, FUTSA is quite an important legislative development for Florida employers. Employers who wish to obtain injunctive relief – the most sought after remedy under the Act – are not required to have existing non-compete agreements in place. Moreover, an employer does not have to prove irreparable harm and the lack of an adequate remedy in order to obtain injunctive relief, as they are presumed under the Act. Lastly, even if the misappropriation of a trade secret or other confidential information is threatened, an employer can still obtain an injunction against the former employee..
As mentioned above, employers prefer injunctive relief (in addition to monetary damages) given that it forever bars an employee from divulging trade secrets and other sensitive information to competitive employers, and prohibits an employee from working for a competitor for a reasonable period. This can be extremely beneficial for employers, especially those who do not have the protections of a non-compete agreement to fall back on.
Whatever the situation presents, it is crucial to consult with an attorney who has extensive experience representing business clients dealing with trade secret leaks and the misappropriation of confidential information.