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FLORIDA NON-COMPETE AGREEMENTS: WHEN WILL THE COURTS MEASURE THE PERIOD OF THE INJUNCTION

If an employer can successfully meet their burden and establish the necessary elements for a valid non-compete agreement, the court will likely grant an injunction to protect the employer’s legitimate business interests. The injunction will only be granted if it is determined that the former employee breached the valid non-compete agreement. Once this is determined, the injunction will prohibit the former employee from engaging in the alleged harmful conduct for a specified period. The court has the discretionary power to determine what period the injunction should be measured from. The injunction could be measured from the date of the employee’s termination, or from the date of the court order. Peter Mavrick is a Fort Lauderdale non-compete lawyer who has extensive experience dealing with non-compete agreements and claims for injunctive relief.

The court’s decision to grant or deny a motion for injunctive relief is purely discretionary. An injunction is viewed as an extraordinary remedy that requires the court to balance certain factors. Particularly, the court will balance the possibility of irreparable harm to the employer, and the inadequacy of damages that would result if the injunction were not granted. If a court finds that the employee did violate a valid non-compete agreement, the court will also look to see whether the restraint is overbroad, overlong, or otherwise not reasonably necessary to protect the legitimate business interests of the employer.

In Anakarli Boutique, Inc. v. Ortiz, 152 So. 3d 107 (Fla. 4th DCA 2014), Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeal was confronted with the issue of how the injunction period should be measured.  In Ortiz, the employer brought an action against a former employee for breach of a two-year non-compete agreement, and filed a motion for temporary injunction. The former employee allegedly violated her non-compete agreement with the employer and left the company to open her own competing business near the company’s location. The trial court denied the employer’s motion for temporary injunction. The trial court reasoned that the two-year non-compete period elapsed when the former employee became an independent contractor and it expired before she left to start her own competing business. The employer rebutted the trial court’s reasoning and contended that the two-year non-compete period should have started from the time the former employer left. The employer then appealed.

Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeal noted that the courts have the discretionary power to determine how the injunction period should be measured. In the interest of fairness, the party seeking to enforce a non-compete agreement is entitled to receive the benefit of its bargain. The benefit of its bargain is the enforcement of the full non-compete period specified in the agreement between the parties. To rule against the employer because the two-year non-compete period expired before the former employee left would not give the employer the full benefit of its bargain.

The appellate court concluded that the trial court had erred in denying the employer’s motion for injunctive relief. The trial court should not have determined that the injunction period expired before the former employee left. The appellate court held that the period of the injunction should have started from the date the former employee left the company.

If you are currently in litigation regarding the enforceability of a non-compete agreement against a former employee, or if you have any general questions about non-compete agreements or injunctions, contact Fort Lauderdale non-compete attorney Peter Mavrick.

The Fort Lauderdale non-compete litigation attorneys at the Mavrick Law Firm have successfully represented many clients in Florida restrictive covenant cases in the Miami, Broward, and Palm Beach County areas encompassed by the Third and Fourth District Courts of Appeal, as well as Hillsborough, Sarasota, and other counties encompassed by the Second Circuit Court of Appeal.  This article does not serve as a substitute for legal advice tailored to a particular situation.  Peter T. Mavrick can be reached at: Website: www.mavricklaw.com; Telephone: 954-564-2246; Address: 1620 West Oakland Park Boulevard, Suite 300, Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33311.

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