Florida law requires that courts read non-competition covenants in favor of providing reasonable protection to a company’s legitimate business interest and prohibits courts from reading the non-competition covenant narrowly against the restraint. Anarkali Boutique, Inc. v. Ortiz, 104 So. 3d 1202 (Fla. 4th DCA 2012) provides an example of just how broadly Florida courts could read a non-competition agreement.
In Anarkali, a worker entered into a non-competition covenant with a company in 2008 as part of an employment agreement. The non-competition covenant restricted the worker from competing with the company for a 2-year term beginning when the worker is “no longer employed by Company.” Anarkali Boutique, Inc., 104 So. 3d at 1203. In 2009, the worker’s status with the company changed from employee to independent contractor. Two years later, in 2011, the worker left the company and opened a competing business. The company sued to enforce the non-competition covenant.
The trial court found that because the 2-year term of the non-competition covenant would begin to run when the worker was “no longer employed by Company,” the 2-year term began to run in 2009, i.e., when the worker ceased being an employee of the company. Consequently, the 2-year term expired in 2011, i.e., before the worker opened her own competing business. Therefore, the trial court held that the non-competition covenant had expired and the company could not now enforce the non-competition covenant. On appeal, the appellate court disagreed.