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Florida Employment Contracts | Trade Secrets Lawyer

Employment Agreements

When employers require employees to sign employment contracts, they are often one-sided in favor of the employer. Prospective employees often feel compelled to sign the proposed employment contract because the employee wants to get the job and does not want to appear difficult to the employer. Many of the employment contracts used by employers include provisions protecting the employer’s “trade secrets”. Employers are trying to include language in proposed employment contracts having the employee agree, in the employment contract, that the employee will be provided with “trade secrets” of the employer during his or her employment that he or she may not take with them upon his or her separation from the employer. Despite many “trade secrets” being available to the public through the internet and other means, employers have employees agree that this information is protected information or “trade secrets” of the employer. This allows an employer to restrict an employee from getting a job or leaving his or her employment with the employer. Many states have enacted statutes protecting an employer’s “trade secrets”.

Trade Secrets

It is becoming more common for employers to require potential employees to sign employment contracts that contain language regarding an employer’s trade secrets. For many years, different courts construed non-compete agreements or employment contracts containing trade secret provisions differently. In 1988, the Florida Legislature enacted Florida statute 688.001-688.009 entitled the Uniform Trade Secrets Act, which provides for a three-year statute of limitations to file a claim.

The statute allows an employer to sue a former employee for misappropriating, using, or threatening the disclosure of trade secrets of the employer. The Florida Legislature broadly defined the term “trade secret” to mean information, including a formula, pattern, compilation, program, device, method, technique, or any process where the employer uses reasonable efforts to maintain its secrecy and has an independent value.

Florida statute 688.003 allows an employer to sue the former employee in court and obtain an injunction against the former employee. This statute is unique because it allows a court to compel a party to perform or to refrain from performing “affirmative acts to protect a trade secret” which prior law did not. Prior law regarding injunctive relief provided a court with the power to compel a party to maintain the status quo, but did not permit the court to exhibit power over party with respect to any future acts.

Florida statute 680.004 allows for the recovery of actual damages sustained by an employer. The recovery can be for actual monetary losses, or under an equitable theory for unjust enrichment. If the use of an employer’s trade secrets was willful and malicious, this statute allows for the court to award damages up to twice the value of the actual monetary damages. The statute also permits for the recovery of attorney’s fees. Specifically, Florida Statute 688.005 provides that the court may award additional damages if the misappropriation, use, or threat to disclosure trade secrets of the employer were made in bad faith, if the motion to terminate the injunction was made in bad faith, or there was a willful and malicious misappropriation.

John D. Hoffman, Esq., a Board Certified Trial Lawyer, has over 20 years of experience dealing with complex employment contracts and non-compete clauses. Mr. Hoffman’s experience in the area of employment law and contracts allows him to efficiently serve his client’s and seek the best resolution to disputes that arise under employment contracts.

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