Portrait of Cassidy Heitman

Cassidy Heitman

From zoom calls to masks and everything in between, the world has changed since the COVID-19 pandemic. However, public policy favoring the enforcement of reasonable covenants not to compete remains unchanged.

On September 1, 2021, the Third District Court of Appeal held in favor of GFA International, Inc. (“Appellant”). Eric Trillas and Trillas Consulting Engineers (“Appellee”) was employed by Appellant for approximately five years and entered into a non-solicitation and non-competition agreement. While employed by Appellant, Appellee formed Trillas Consulting Engineers (TCE) and diverted work from Appellant. GFA Int’l, Inc. v. Trillas, 46 Fla. L. Weekly D1946 (Fla. 3d DCA September 1, 2021). In 2020 Appellee left Appellant’s employment and continued to operate TCE while working with Appellant’s clients.

The Third District Court reversed and remanded the trial court’s decision, denying the motion for a temporary injunction enjoining Eric Trillas and Trillas Consulting Engineers (“Appellee”) from violating a non-compete agreement. The trial court found that there was insufficient evidence of irreparable injury based on possible recovery of monetary damages  showing an adequate remedy at law. Additionally, the trial court found that the relief sought by the Appellant did not serve the public interest because it prevented an individual from practicing their profession during the pandemic.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Florida public policy favored the enforcement of reasonable covenants not to compete and was governed by § 542.355 of the Florida Statutes. The Third District Court of Appeal found that §  542.335(1)(g) of the Florida Statutes conflicted with the trial court’s decision.

Section 542.335(1)(g) states, “In determining the enforceability of a restrictive covenant, a court … [s]hall not consider any individualized economic or other hardship that might be caused to the person against whom enforcement is sought.”

The Third District Court of Appeal found that denying the injunction based on individualized hardship violated public policy. The policy reasoning is that the enforcement of restrictive covenants serves the public interest because “it demonstrates that courts will uphold agreements, and employers can rely on non-compete agreements to protect their legitimate business interests.” Quirch Foods LLC v. Broce, 314 So. 3d 327 (Fla. 3d DCA 2020).

Arguably, the Third District Courts’ reasoning protects companies who provide confidential information to their employees because it allows employers to know that the information is protected if an employee resigns or is terminated.

In light of this decision, in a world that seems to be constantly changing, one thing remains, which is the enforceability of reasonable non-compete agreements.