When There is Absence of an Injury in a Florida Non-Compete Case
According to Florida § 542.335, the Florida courts will enforce a restrictive covenant because the encroachment of a restrictive agreement generates a “presumption of irreparable harm.” The statute itself is restrictive, as it leaves no room for discussion about what happens when a covenant is violated but there are no damages, which actually happens quite often. In most cases, an employee will leave a company and go off to start his or her own business. In many others, a trusted employee will go on to work for a competitor. When either of these things happens, the prior employer assumes that the ex-employee’s goal is to steal customers or to spill trade secrets, which prompts the employer to file a cause of action before damages can even be sustained.
If you left a company to advance your career only to be rewarded with a lawsuit, you may be feeling discouraged and overwhelmed. While that is completely understandable, know that you are not powerless. The Fort Lauderdale business litigation attorneys at the office of Edward J. Jennings, P.A., have helped countless business owners and former employees alike resolve issues dealing with non-compete agreements. If you want to know what your rights are as a former employee, contact our firm today.
TransUnion Risk and Alternative Data Solutions, Inc. v. Surya Challa
This case is a classic example of a previous employer suing preemptively. In this case, Transunion filed a motion to have an injunction placed against one of the company’s previous employees, who was hired on by a competing data fusion corporation. In its claim, TransUnion asserted that the employee possessed proprietary information which, if leaked to his new employer, could cause irreparable injury to the company. TransUnion testified that it understood that it was unlikely that the former worker would actually disclose the company’s confidential information, and that as of yet, there was no sign that disclosure was imminent. Yet, like many employers, it was taking precautionary measures. The court decided that although there was the presupposition of injury, no harm had actually been done, and so therefore, an injunction was not necessary.
TransUnion appealed the trial court’s decision, but the appellate court upheld the lower court’s findings. In making its decision, the appellate court referred to the defendant’s testimony from the first trial in which he explained that his new job role was vastly different than his previous one, and that he had no use for the information he held.
The trial court found the defendant to be credible, but before it came to a decision, it turned to witnesses. Several witness testimonies attested to the fact that the industry evolves at a rapid rate and that the trademarked information that may have been useful when the employee still worked for the company would likely become irrelevant in the near future. By the time the appellate court reviewed those testimonies, it had already been 14 months.
You Have Rights, and a Fort Lauderdale Business Litigation Attorney Can Help You Assert Them
As demonstrated in the TransUnion case, it is not uncommon for former employers to try to preserve their trade secrets by requesting an injunction before harm has actually occurred. Unfortunately, though those employers only want to protect their livelihood, they do not realize that by acting prematurely, they risk ruining someone else’s.
Whether you signed a non-compete agreement or possess proprietary information, you may discover that leaving your former company in pursuit of loftier career opportunities may result in a lawsuit. If your former employer attempts to place an injunction on you because of the “presumption of injury,” it is your job to show absence of injury. Our Fort Lauderdale business litigation attorneys at the office of Edward J. Jennings, P.A., can help you do that.
Remember, it may be your career on the line, so do not hesitate, and reach out to our firm today.