Non-Compete Agreement Litigation
Our health law firm represents medical practices and physicians in litigation involving non-compete agreements. If you have a dispute regarding a non-compete agreement, our health law firm can help you. We have substantial experience representing both employers and employees in litigation over restrictive covenants, in state and federal courts.
Physician Employment Law Firm
We represent our customers in non-compete agreement litigation, which often involves the following types of issues:
- whether restrictive covenants are too broad geographically
- whether non-compete provisions are unreasonably long in duration
- whether non-compete provisions are overly broad in the scope of prohibited activities
- whether restrictive covenants are void as against public policy
- damages and other remedies
Our approach is to enable our client, whether the employer or employee, to realistically assess the enforceability of restrictive covenants in court, understand all of the practical ramifications raised by the circumstances, and develop an effective litigation strategy to protect their interests.
Our law firm’s clients are often medical practices, healthcare professionals and healthcare related businesses. Our attorneys are experienced advocates in the courtroom and at the negotiating table. We have extensive experience as attorneys and an AV-rating by Martindale Hubbell. To schedule a consultation, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact us at the office nearest you.
To Compete or Not to Compete
Non-compete agreements and other restrictive covenants often result in litigation after a key employee's employment ends and new employment by a competitor begins, due to the unavoidable tension between the former employer's need to protect proprietary interests and the employee's need to ply his trade to make a living. Employers and employees sometimes mistakenly assume a restrictive covenant is enforceable just because it is a signed contract drafted by a lawyer. Rarely is the outcome of such litigation automatic, however, since state law typically provides that restrictive covenants must be examined on an ad hoc basis by the court to determine whether the provisions are enforceable.
Generally speaking, state law will provide that a non-compete agreement that is only a "partial restraint of trade," is founded upon valid consideration, and is reasonable in its restrictions on the employee, is binding and enforceable. Enforceability is something a court must determine on a case-by-case basis. When a court or arbitrator is called upon to determine whether a non-compete agreement is enforceable under the law, the answers to the following questions are often determinative: (1) Is the restriction necessary to protect valid business interests? (2) Is it reasonably limited in duration and geographic scope? (3) Is it too oppressive in preventing the former employee's attempts to find work? (4) Is it consistent with public policy? and (5) Is it supported by consideration? If the answer to any of these questions is no, the agreement may not be enforced as written.
Georgia law known as the Restrictive Covenants Act, O.C.G.A. § 13-8-50 et seq., for example, is in many ways less employee-friendly than prior case law and virtually negated over a century of Georgia court holdings strongly adverse to enforcement of non-competition agreements (and other restrictive covenants) as contrary to public policy. This law authorizes the trial judge to "blue pencil" (i.e. modify) provisions of a restrictive covenant that the judge determines are too broad.
Historically, the pattern of non-compete agreement litigation has been predictable. An employee signed a non-negotiable employment agreement at the inception of employment that contained non-compete provisions and other restrictive covenants. With the job, the employee of necessity obtained access to sensitive, proprietary information during the course of the employment (e.g. customer lists, pricing, methods of doing business), access to and relationships with the employer's customers and employees, and valuable training provided by the employer. When the employment ended the employee, understandably needing a job to provide for his livelihood and support his family, sought work that tended to be with employers who were in competition with the former employer, often in the same geographic area. Both the employer's need to protect its proprietary business interests and the employee's need to make a living are legitimate, and, therefore, in the event of a lawsuit to enforce restrictive covenants, the court's job would be to balance the parties' competing interests and decide whether the restrictive covenants are enforceable. Essentially, the trial judge would decide whether the scope of the restrictive covenants exceeded what is minimally necessary to protect valid business interests, applying the factors listed above. If any provision of the restrictive covenant was found to be overly broad, the entire agreement would be declared unenforceable because (until recently in Georgia), the law did not permit the court to "blue pencil" (i.e. modify) the contract. Thus many lawsuits involving restrictive covenants were resolved by a court decision early in the case, typically on a motion for a temporary restraining order against the employee concerning his new job or business pursuit, that a non-compete provision was unenforceable on its face. When a key employee's employment ends, neither the employer nor the employee (nor the employee's new employer) should assume that a restrictive covenant is enforceable or unenforceable, but should engage a qualified attorney.
Non-compete Litigation Law Firm
Our health law attorneys have extensive experience litigating non-compete agreements between medical practices and physicians. To schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys, email us at email@example.com or contact us at our office nearest you.