Can a non-compete be enforced if too broad?

I was let go from a FL-only homeowners insurance company. During the exit process, I was told I could not work for a "direct competitor." I just got a copy of the non-compete and it says it is for 1 year and is broader than just a competitor. It indicates I couldn't even work for an insurance agency, regardless of whether the agency sells my old employer's insurance products or not. And, I cannot work for another company that sells personal &/or commercial lines of property, auto, liability, and umbrella insurance...some of these products my old employer doesn't even sell. I would need prior written consent from my old employer before taking on either of these types of jobs. I've been in insurance for over 15 years and it's all I know. I've been speaking to both a local agency & also an auto insurance carrier. What do I tell these employers? Should I speak to my old employer's HR Department to feel them out about this?

1 answer  |  asked Feb 28, 2011 2:32 PM [EST]  |  applies to Florida

Answers (1)

Phyllis Towzey
Without reviewing your entire noncompete agreement, I can’t give you a definite answer. In general, noncompete agreements are enforceable in Florida. It is possible that a court would find your agreement overly broad, but there is no guarantee of that. There is probably language in the noncompete that you signed stating that you agree it is not overly broad, and that the restrictions imposed are reasonably necessary to protect your employer’s legitimate business interests. Time restrictions of up to 2 years are presumptively reasonable under the Florida noncompete statute. As a practical matter, challenging the noncompete in court would be very expensive for you. If you simply take one of the jobs without contacting your employer, you will be in breach and your employer can obtain an injunction against you, and probably sue you for monetary damages as well. My recommendation is that you contact the HR department of your old employer and request their consent. If they refuse, then you should consider hiring an attorney who specializes in this area of the law to prepare a written opinion letter regarding the enforceability of the restrictions you believe are overly broad. Your lawyer can then contact your former employer directly to negotiate on your behalf. This strategy often works because the employer does not want to have the enforceability of their noncompete challenged in court, and will usually agree to modify the restriction if the job you are interested in is not in direct competition. Good luck!

posted by Phyllis Towzey  |  Mar 1, 2011 08:31 AM [EST]

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