Physician non-competes: Be wary of overly stingy clauses

The devil is in the details for physician noncompete clauses, so it’s important to pay attention to the fine print and try to renegotiate language that can overly restrict where doctors can work after leaving a practice, experts say.

Physician noncompete clauses may vary by state, according to an article in Physicians Practice.  Such clauses typically come into play when a doctor is fired or resigns.

In New England alone, Massachusetts recently failed to reform its law governing non-compete clauses, while Connecticut and Rhode Island significantly restricted them, according to an article in Mondaq. Doctors’ contracts in Connecticut can’t restrict a doctor’s activities for more than a year or reach more than 15 miles from the primary site where he or she practiced. Rhode Island went further, making it unlawful to restrict practice based on either time or distance.

The Physicians Practice article noted that a reasonable geographic restriction varies between rural and urban areas. It also suggests doctors who sign on to work with a large health system consider whether the non-compete clause would restrict them from practicing near their main practice site, or all of the health system’s locations. The article strongly encourages doctors to renegotiate overly restrictive noncompetes.

Do not underestimate the effects of the non-compete clause, said the Physicians Practice article. Plan ahead--before you sign--to make sure your exit won't ruffle any feathers. 

In Detroit, Wayne State University is asking more than 500 doctors in its faculty medical practice to sign a noncompete clause by Jan. 1, Becker’s Hospital Review recently reported. Those who don’t sign could owe the practice their two previous years of compensation if they’re terminated. Those who do sign won’t be allowed to quit, according to the article. The physicians’ union is objecting to the restrictions.

Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, was criticized earlier this year for a noncompete that banned pediatricians from working within 100 miles of the hospital for two years after leaving--meaning they couldn’t work at either Cincinnati or Dayton’s children’s hospitals.