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Non-Compete Clause at Center of Lawsuit Against Celebrity Chef


A Florida landlord is suing her celebrity chef tenant for unpaid rent and sales tax as well as violation of a non-compete agreement, according to an article by the Miami Herald. In addition to damages, the landlord wants to evict the chef.

Filed in the Eleventh Judicial Circuit of Florida, the landlord’s complaint provides specific details on the requested damages. The landlord claims $1,401,777.56 in damages for rent and $98,124.43 for sales tax, legal fees and other costs.

The landlord also alleges breach of contract on three levels:

  1. The chef refused to admit the landlord’s employees as guests at the restaurant. The chef’s contract was supposed to afford landlord’s employees with restaurant discounts, but landlord’s employees were not able to enjoy those benefits.
  2. The chef stopped promoting the restaurant and landlord’s building on social media, despite the chef’s contract including language requiring the chef to do so.
  3. The chef opened a competing vegan restaurant in Miami even though the chef’s contract included a non-compete agreement, preventing the chef from opening the competing restaurant.

Considering the fallout of this news story, it feels like a great time to review Florida laws concerning non-compete agreements.

How does Florida law deal with non-compete agreements?

Florida Statute 542.335 outlines the state approach to non-compete agreements. Essentially, Florida allows non-compete agreements – referred to as restrictive covenants – so long as the terms are “reasonable in time, area, and line of business.” The non-compete agreement must be in writing and signed by the restricted party.

In order to enforce a non-compete agreement, there must be a “legitimate business interest.” Florida Statute 542.335 provides that legitimate business interests include but are not limited to trade secrets, customer relationships and enhanced training or development. In the absence of a legitimate business interest, a non-compete agreement is void.

Florida Statute 542.335 also details a number of considerations involving the timeframe of non-compete agreements. For former employees, non-compete agreements can last for a maximum of two years. For former distributors, non-compete agreements can last for a maximum of three years. For former owners, non-compete agreements can last for a maximum of seven years. There are certain exceptions that apply. But in general, exceeding the maximum timeframe renders a non-compete agreement void.

Do you have questions for a seasoned employment lawyer? 

Non-compete agreements and other aspects of employment contracts can be a challenge to navigate properly. There are local, state and federal regulations and relevant court decisions to take into account. Luckily a seasoned employment attorney can help explain your rights and work toward an effective resolution.

Based in Miami, Florida, Penichet Law has demonstrated proficiency in the field of labor and employment law. If you have questions concerning non-compete agreements or other aspects of employment law, do not hesitate. Contact us as soon as possible.