Like many physicians, Rhode Island gerontologist Dr. Shahzad Khurshid agreed to certain conditions when he began working for his former practice.
Khurshid agreed in 2009 that when his employment at Medicine and Long Term Care Associates ended, he would not solicit the practice's employees or patients for two years or cause any of its employees or patients to leave the practice, according to court documents.
But after Khurshid left the group in 2014, several of its retirement center clients decided to leave as well, said his lawyer, Kathleen Hagerty. Khurshid continued working at those facilities, prompting his former practice to sue him in state court.
The court sided with Khurshid in March of this year, refusing to keep him from working with the practice's former clients while the case played out. The judge wrote that “the strong public interest in allowing individuals to retain healthcare service providers of their choice” outweighed the benefits of the noncompete agreement.
Legal experts say similar battles between doctors and their employers are playing out across the country as physician employment increases and providers continue to consolidate.
“The graph has gone to a 90-degree angle of increase in the volume of noncompete and nonsolicitation agreements and disputes over them,” said Joseph Maya, a managing partner at Maya Murphy in New York and Connecticut who works with employers and employees in such disputes.
The majority of physician employment contracts now contain noncompete and/or nonsolicitation clauses, he said.
The agreements often say how long a doctor must wait after leaving an employer before practicing within a certain geographic area that could put the doctor into competition with a former employer.
Jonathan Pollard, a competition lawyer in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., said litigation over noncompetes in all types of professions has increased significantly in the past 15 years, including in healthcare.