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.
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.
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.
While the enforcement of non-compete agreements around the country remains strong, the courts are looking closer at whether an employee will suffer “undue hardship” if his or her non-compete is enforced. Thus, employers should avoid taking unreasonable positions in court and be prepared to explain why enforcing a particular non-competition agreement will not prevent an employee from earning a living.
In Texas, a 5 to 10 year non-compete agreement related to a sale of business is the norm. n addition to the non-compete restrictions in the sale documents, those sellers who stay employed by the buyer after the sale often sign a second non-compete agreement as part of their employment package, which does not kick in until after their employment with the buyer terminates.
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.