Employees Violating Non-Compete Agreements- Why Use a Private Investigator
Recently our Investigative Agency has received multiple requests to assist companies with employees that have violated their non-compete agreements. Every state has different statutes regarding this area of Business law. In our State of Florida there are three prerequisites that the courts look for when upholding non-compete agreements: 1) The Non-Compete must be reasonable and timely when protection by the employer is requested 2) A legitimate business interest must exist that justifies the restrictive covenant 3) The Non-Compete must be reasonably necessary to protect the business interest. Some of these legitimate business interests that are acknowledged by the courts are trade secrets and confidential business information such as special training programs and relationships with existing customers, including customer lists. If a legitimate interest can be established, the Florida courts will generally look to see that the duration of the non-compete is reasonable, such as 12-24 months, and the extent of the geographic limitation is also reasonable.
The first question we as the Investigative Agency are asked by the employers is what can we do to help win a case against the former employee. In the last year we have used multiple strategies. Obviously the burden of proof falls on the employer to prove that the employee is actually working for the competitor. Our initial steps are usually to get the employee coming and going in and out of the competitor’s workplace on video during work hours. Secondly by getting some type of confirmation that the employee works at the competitor’s workplace whether verbally by the secretary who answers the phone, co-worker or even a letterhead document with the employee’s name on it. On several occasions the employees who have violated these “Non Compete Agreements” are in a sales capacity so we create a pretext scenario in order to get a proposal directly from the employee on the competitor’s letterhead. There are numerous ways to get this information and like anything else there are no guarantees of being able to prove the violation but certainly we can assist in most cases to get the former employee to commit or acknowledge their new relationship with the competitor. It is evident to our Investigative Agency that the courts are taking a much more favorable position regarding the employers’ rights regarding their former employees leaving and showing no regard for the Non- Compete contract that they have executed and committed to. Florida may be a right to work state but that does not mean that you as an employee can get up and run to the nearest competitor taking all of your employer’s confidential information and not expect consequences for the legal commitment that you have signed with your former employer. Our position at Cavallo Investigations is to stand with and actively assist the employers in this initiative!