Non-Compete Agreements in Health Care

I have recently been spending a ton of time in a local hospital and become friends with nurses, therapists, and doctors. When census is down (which means not many patients), the hours of these fine folks will often be cut to meet patient demand and quality staff are unable to work 40 hours each week. This means, most likely, there will be bills that will be left unpaid until the next month when hours are back to normal and perhaps even overtime is possible.

So what if these fine medical professionals wanted to tell the hospital down the street, “Hey, I may have a few available hours this week?” Would there be anything illegal in working at two separate medical facilities in town? Serving two separate groups of patients? Following each facility’s rules and regulations?

No, nothing wrong with that plan on its face. But if the nurse or therapist was asked to sign a non-compete agreement, he or she might be barred against working for another facility – even when their hours have been reduced.

Would it be fair for Hospital A to fire or sue the nurse for trying to pick up hours?

No.

Would it be legal for Hospital A to fire or sue the nurse for trying to pick up hours somewhere else?

Yes, under Virginia law that would be legal.

So next time you consider whether Virginia law is always right, or right on track, consider this example: where human needs (need for health care / need to pay bills / need to support your family) are being thwarted by often unnecessary policies, rules and law.

Perhaps when you think about it with this example, non-compete agreements do seem pretty unnecessary, and unfair.

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Lauren Ellerman

In 2011, Lauren Ellerman was named "Young Lawyer of the Year" by the Roanoke Bar Association for her work in the community. To speak with Lauren about your personal injury case, contact her at lellerman@frithlawfirm.com.