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Washington Doctors Faced with Non-Compete Clauses


Many physicians looking to leave their employment in Washington face significant challenges. When a doctor is hired by a health care entity, it is likely that the physician’s employment contract contains a non-compete provision. Non-compete clauses are designed, from the employer’s perspective, to assist in ensuring that when employees leave their current positions, they don’t wind up becoming a “competitor” to their former employer for a specific period of time. These clauses force healthcare professionals to make tough decisions when choosing employers.

For example, at the University of Washington, physician who are specialists who leave their employment are not permitted to work within a 30 mile radius for two years after they quit their current job; non-specialists, such as family practice physicians, may not work for a two-year period of time within a 10 mile radius. A bill proposed in the state legislature that sought to limit how these non-competition provisions are used by healthcare entities did not become law.

Attorney Joyce L. Thomas, from the Seattle law firm, Frank Freed Subit & Thomas LLP, regularly represents physicians in contract negotiations and non-compete restrictive covenant issues. She was recently interviewed by the Puget Sound Business Journal and discussed non-compete clauses.

Thomas advised that for non-competition clauses to survive a legal challenge, the provisions must pass a four part test.

These restrictive covenants are having serious consequences on physicians’ ability to practice medicine in Washington. As a result, many physicians are electing to leave Washington and practice in another state or outside of the restricted area.

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