If you are a physician and work at a group practice, in a hospital, or with an HMO, you are likely familiar with the concept of the noncompete agreement. This type of agreement in an employment contract is to prevent you from setting up a private practice in a specific geographic area for a specific amount of time after you terminate your employment with the group practice.
Noncompete agreements are a common part of these types of employment contracts because the nature of a physician's work is that he or she forms doctor/patient relationships and the patients will often want to continue seeing the same physician over the years, even if the physician leaves a particular practice. Group practices see this as threatening to their business, and thus they often include noncompete agreements to protect their interests.
Noncompete agreements in Florida
The state of Florida enforces physician noncompete agreements. This being the case, it is important if you are a physician that you understand what you are signing before you agree to this type of contract. The ramifications of violating such a clause if you choose to leave a group practice can cause you hardship. You may have to move so you can practice in another area, or you may have to go without practicing in the area of your choice for the duration of the time specified in the agreement.
Not all agreements are enforceable
Many different factors come into play if your former employer chooses to enforce a noncompete agreement that you signed. It is not automatically enforceable because there may be elements that make the agreement void. For example, if your employer breached your employment contract in some way, such as by not paying you the full compensation as specified in the contract, you may have grounds to fight the enforcement of the noncompete agreement.
These cases are complex, and several factors can actually make your noncompete agreement unenforceable. If you must leave your group practice for any reason and wish to set up your own practice in an area or timeframe that violates a noncompete agreement you previously signed, you would be best served by seeking legal advice from an employment attorney who handles these types of cases in your geographic area.