Q&A: Non-compete clauses

April 23, 2010

Non-compete clauses are enforceable in most jurisdictions.

Q: I practice family medicine as an employee of a hospital clinic. I plan to retire soon from the institution, but not from practice. I have a 25-mile non-compete clause and do not wish to incur any legal problems with my employer, which I highly respect and appreciate. I have several opportunities, but the one that appeals most to me is in a community 19.7 miles from the clinic in which I work. How do I approach this opportunity? A colleague tells me that non-compete clauses seldom are enforced because institutions rarely win such cases in court. I would not consider the offer if my current employer adamantly opposes it.

A: Non-compete clauses definitely are enforceable in most jurisdictions. Whether a 25-mile restriction would apply depends on the area in which you practice. If you are in a rural area and many patients travel 25 miles or more to see you, then a court of law may deem reasonable a 25-mile restriction. In a highly populated urban area, where most patients only travel a mile or so to see a physician, a 25-mile restriction almost certainly would be rejected by a court of law.

The answer to the reader's question was provided by Medical Economics consultant Steven I. Kern, JD, Kern Augustine Conroy and Schoppmann, Bridgewater, New Jersey. Send your practice management questions to medec@advanstar.com
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