The following language defeated the purpose of a non-compete clause: “Employee shall not own, manage, operate, control, be employed by, assist, participate in, or have any material interest in any business or profession engaged in general equine veterinary practice located within a thirty (30) mile radius of 19801, County Road 561, Clermont, Florida [FEVS’s business address].” As a general rule of contract construction, if the contract is clear and unambiguous, a court is going to enforce the terms as written. In Helderich v. Florida Equine Veterinary Services, Inc., 86 So. 3d 527 (Fla. 5th DCA 2012), the court determined that the terminated vet could provide veterinary services within that thirty mile radius as long as her place of employment was outside the non-compete geographical location. The agreement never prohibited the provision of veterinary services within that thirty mile zone! The fact that the employer brought suit illustrates the fact that it wanted to protect its business within that 30-mile radius but failed to do so simply because of the way the non-compete clause was drafted. The point — for both employers and employees— is that language of non-compete agreements must be carefully drafted and studied. Otherwise, employers might wind up not protecting their businesses and former employees might have a good defense to claims brought by their former employers. Again, drafting is the key.
Brad Kelsky, Esq., and Kelsky Law, P.A., welcome the opportunity to consult with employers and employees concerning non-compete agreement enforcement.
This article does not constitute legal advice or the formation of an attorney-client relationship, and is not for re-publication without express permission of the author.