CAN BE PROTECTABLE INTERESTS UNDERFLORIDA'S RESTRICTIVE COVENANT STATUTE
On September 14, 2017, the Florida Supreme Court issued a critically important ruling for employers and employees alike. The Court, in White v. Mederi Caretenders Visiting Servs. of SE Fla., LLC, 2017 Fla. LEXIS 1857 (2017), ruled: "we conclude that Section 542.335(1)(b)(3) does not preclude recognizing referral sources as protected legitimate interests." The Court noted its decision and stated legal concept was borne out by a review of the express language of the statute. Specifically, the express language of the statute only sets forth a non-exhaustive list of protectable "legitimate business interests" that will support restrictive covenants. The language of the statute itself provides that the articulated list was not intended to be exhaustive. See Fla. Stat. § 542.335(1)(b) ("The term 'legitimate business interest' includes, but is not limited to:").
Further, the Court, on several occasions in its opinion, provided that Florida's restrictive covenant statute affords courts with "latitude to make case-by-case determinations [about what constitutes a protectable interest] dependent on the facts and industry." Noting: "[w]hether an activity qualifies as a protected legitimate business interest under the statute is inherently a factual inquiry, which is heavily industry and context specific."
TAKEAWAY: The Florida Supreme Court in White ruled that "referral sources" and other interests can be protectable interests under Florida's restrictive covenant statute. The Court also confirmed that restrictive covenants are not one-size-fits-all. Depending on the industry, business, and facts and circumstances of a case, a restrictive covenant may or may not be enforceable. It is critically important that employers and employees, separately and in concert with their respective counsel, review restrictive covenant agreements before they are entered in an effort to avoid potentially unnecessary and expensive litigation.
If you would like to further discuss, please contact Brian D. Buckstein at 561-227-1575.
The Firm is pleased to announce Alexandra Lavelanet has joined the firm as an associate attorney. Alexandra received her undergraduate degree from the University of Florida and her law degree, cum laude, from the University of Miami School of Law, where she served as Articles and Comments Editor on the University of Miami Business Law Review.
Alexandra will provide depth to the employment litigation, trusts and estates, and real estate practices at the Firm.