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The different ways doctors can escape noncompete agreements

No matter who you work for, most employers ask their employees to sign a noncompete clause in this day and age. Doctors aren't, unfortunately, immune to this. Hospitals have taken to utilizing noncompete clauses as a way to ensure that the doctors they hire don't walk away and take their patients with them or work in a neighboring area for a certain period of time.

While from the hospital's point of view, this protects their interests; for doctors, this can greatly impact their ability to pursue other employment. It's because of the punitive nature of this particular covenant that judges are ruling that noncompete agreements should not be upheld, much to the dismay of hospitals.

While years ago, many physicians would not think twice in signing noncompete agreements, the likelihood that most doctors will do so is quickly declining. In fact, physicians have begun negotiating the terms of these agreements at an accelerated rate. For those that signed a noncompete agreement without knowing it could be negotiated, there are some potential loopholes that may help you get out from under it.

An agreement that too broadly defines its geographic scope may be deemed unreasonable. Additionally, any provision that requires that a doctor abstain from performing a certain procedure or medicine altogether until the agreement's time frame has little chance of being upheld.

Anyone who is asked to sign one must be offered an incentive, whether some type of stakeholder status, income or bonus. Any employer that fails to follow through with their promised compensation is seen as having failed to uphold their end of the bargain. This may ultimately result in the agreement being thrown out as well.

Other reasons a judge might set aside a noncompete agreement include instances in which a physician is fired without just cause or agreements are enforced inequitably among similarly departing physicians. A noncompete agreement that restricts a population's access to medical care or a patient's continuity of care will almost assuredly result in the noncompete agreement being rendered null and void.

As a doctor, it's in your best interest to have an attorney review your noncompete agreement before you sign it. If you didn't, there still may be a number of unenforceable provisions that could result in it being thrown out. An experienced Melbourne health care contract attorney can review your agreement and advise you as to any loopholes that may exist.

Source: medscape.com, "6 ways to free yourself from a noncompete agreement," Mark Crane, accessed May 17, 2017

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