Is My Employer in Breach of Contract

From December 2008 until January 2012, I worked for Paul Mitchell the School-Jacksonville, a Beauty School. After having worked for them for over two years I was forced to sign a non compete agreement. I avoided signing it for over a month, but was told I had to sign it or lose my job.

I quit that position in January of this year because of a hostile work environment. During the end of my employment, the business was investigated by the Florida Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division and was found to be in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act for not paying overtime, requiring exempt and non-exempt employees to arrive early for work and not allowing them to clock in, and not paying for lunches where employees worked while eating. After leaving, I received a check for over $3,000 for back wages.

On August 1 I became employed by another beauty school in the same capacity as the former. On August 8 I received a Cease and Desist letter from my former employer informing me that I was in violation of the non compete agreement. They are threatening to file an injunction against myself and my current employer for aiding and abedding.

According to the Florida Bar website, when they were investigated and found to be in violation of the FLSA, they were in breach of my orignial employment contract thus nullifying the non compete agreement.

Is this my best defense? Should I fire a preemptive strike and file in the courts a declaratory judgment to seek a determination of the enforceability of the noncompete agreement and a declaration of its invalidity. I am not the only employee to leave the company due to a hostile work environment, one other former employee now works with me at the new school. They sent her a "warning" letter, but not a cease and desist.

1 answer  |  asked Aug 28, 2012 08:52 AM [EST]  |  applies to Florida

Answers (1)

Arthur Schofield
I am not sure where you obtained information that a FLSA violation was a prior breach of a non-compete agreement. One has very little to do with the other, but that is not to say you don't have defenses to the claim for violation of the non-compete agreement. In order to answer your questions, I would need to see the non-compete agreement and discuss with you your reasons for leaving.

I do encourage you to take this matter seriously. If they file suit, these claims proceed quickly and could be costly to you as the agreements normally require you to pay the former employer's attorney's fees and you, of course, have to, or should, hire counsel.

posted by Arthur Schofield  |  Aug 28, 2012 09:00 AM [EST]

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