Texas employees who refuse COVID-19 vaccine may be terminated. If they have a non-compete agreement with their employer, assuming the agreement meets the appropriate legal requirements, i.e., among other things, is reasonable, has geographic, scope, and term restrictions, and is supported by consideration, the fact that the employee was terminated or quit over the COVID-19 vaccine requirement, is not going to make the agreement invalid.
The the hallmark of enforcement of non-compete agreements in Texas is whether or not the covenants are reasonable. Generally, a reasonable area for in a covenant not to compete is considered to be the territory in which the employee worked. Furthermore, noncompete agreements barring an employee from working for a competitor in any capacity are invalid.
In recent years, it has become quite common for surgeons to become part owners of free-standing ambulatory surgery centers in Texas. Often, their purchase of the ownership comes with the strings attached – a requirement that they perform a certain number of surgeries at that particular ACS and that they do not compete with the ACS within a certain geographic radius.
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.
There is no “rule of thumb” about what geographic non-compete restraints in physician contracts are reasonable, and medical practices need to consider what geographic restraints they need to put in place in order to protect a legitimate business interest, such as confidential information, trade secrets, goodwill, or patient base.