The Florida restrictive covenant statute allows employers to restrain employees from working for a competitor so long as the non-competition agreement is supported by a legitimate business interest and is reasonable in time, area, and line of business. Fla. Stat. 542.335. Employees that enter contracts containing non-compete agreements can be prohibited from working for a similar business within a competitive geographic area. For example, doctors that sign employment agreements with the hospitals they work for, can be prohibited from treating their patients after leaving that hospital. See, e.g., Ansaarie v. First Coast Cardiovascular Inst., P.A., 252 So. 3d 287 (Fla. 1st DCA 2018) (enjoining a doctor from seeing his former patients associated with the hospital he used to work for). This is true even when patients request treatment from the departing doctor. Peter Mavrick is a Miami business litigation attorney, and represents clients in Fort Lauderdale, Boca Raton, and Palm Beach. The Mavrick Law Firm represents businesses and their owners in breach of contract litigation and related claims of fraud, non-compete agreement litigation, trade secret litigation, trademark infringement litigation, employment litigation, and other legal disputes in federal and state courts and in arbitration.
Florida’s Legislature recognized that the state’s strong non-compete laws can prevent patient access to medical treatment about five years ago in 2019. This is especially true in rural areas where choice of medical care providers is limited. Therefore, Florida’s legislature invalided non-compete contracts in certain circumstances relating to licensed physicians. The statute provides that a “restrictive covenant entered into with a physician… who practices a medical specialty in a county wherein one entity employs or contracts with,… all physicians who practice such specialty in that county is” invalid. Fla. Stat. 542.336. The Legislature’s invalidation is however limited to (1) certain physicians (2) possessing a specialty and (3) who are employed by a single employer in a single county. Id. Therefore, many Florida doctors are still prohibited from treating patients even when the patient wants treatment from that particular doctor.
It seems Florida’s Legislature understands that the limitations of its 2019 modification are insufficient to enable adequate medical staffing in Florida because the Legislature may be preparing to expand non-compete invalidation. Florida’s House and Senate introduced similar bills that would expand the prohibition on non-competes in the medical space to physicians practicing medicine within any geographic area for any period of time. The proposed language of the new statute from the House is as follows:
A restrictive covenant entered into with a physician who is licensed under chapter 458 or chapter 459 which prohibits a physician from practicing medicine within a geographic area for any period of time after the termination of a contract, partnership, employment, or professional relationship is not supported by a legitimate business interest. Such restrictive covenants are shall void.
Florida House Bill 11 (Aug. 11, 2023); see also Florida Senate Bill 458 (Nov. 28, 2023). If passed, the new law is slated to go into effect July 2024. Doctors must comply with existing laws now to avoid unwarned consequences. It is unknown whether the proposed bill will pass, the final language of the bill, and when (if at all) the bill take effect.
Peter Mavrick is a Miami business litigation lawyer, and represents clients in Fort Lauderdale, Boca Raton, and Palm Beach. This article does not serve as a substitute for legal advice tailored to a particular situation.