Many employees assume that if they were let go their non-compete agreement automatically becomes null and void. This is not true, however, in a lot of states, and this assumption can turn out to be very costly for an employee. It is much better to plan ahead and make sure that the departure from the former employer is as smooth as possible, and to avoid doing some of the things described above that often trigger a non-compete lawsuit.
While getting out of non-compete restraints is not always possible, some of the most common ways that employees – and employers that want to hire them – can overcome such agreements include the following: (1) lack of consideration; (2) unreasonable restraints; (3) no legitimate business interest, and other defenses.
Whether a medical practice can bind a physician with a non-compete agreement depends on where the medical practice is located and which state’s law governs the contract. Some states – California, Oklahoma, Alabama, North Dakota, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island – either prohibit all employment non-compete agreements or physician employment non-competes specifically. Meanwhile, Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Indiana, Tennessee, West Virginia, District of Columbia, Connecticut, and Delaware have special rules regarding physician non-competes.
Are non-compete agreements enforceable if the employee is terminated? The answer depends on which state the employee is in, as each state has its own laws regarding the enforceability of non-compete agreements.
In Texas, client non-solicitation agreements are subject to the same rules as the non-compete agreements. Therefore, they must be “reasonable” and “not impose a greater restraint than is necessary to protect the goodwill or other business interest” of the employer.
A recent decision from the Thirteenth Court of Appeals in Texas serves as a cautionary tale for Texas employers seeking to enforce their non-compete agreements. In this case, a company that provided surgical assistants to surgical facilities and physicians sued a former employee for breaching his 2-year non-compete covenant, which prohibited him from “in any way” offering his services to any “client institutions or client surgeons” of his former employer.