Who Uses Noncompete Agreements? It Runs the Gamut.

    By Laura Geringer Gross

    Doctors often have them. Lawyers don’t. Neither do most professors. But some hair stylists do.

    Sometimes it’s hard to predict where noncompete agreements will surface.

    Laura Geringer Gross, a lawyer with the firm of Kaufman & Canoles in Norfolk, has represented exterminating companies that have drafted noncompete agreements for employees. But Gross doesn’t have one herself. Lawyers say their code of ethics bars such restrictions.

    “The lawyer-client relationship is held sacrosanct,” said Burt Whitt, chairman of Kaufman’s labor and employment section. “That would restrict when someone could deliver legal services to a client.”

    Old Dominion University also doesn’t use noncompete agreements for professors or coaches, officials said. “I think academicians, in general, have an ethic that says education and the discipline are more important that the attachments of individuals to institutions,” said the university provost, Thomas Isenhour.

    The clauses, though, are commonplace in medical practices. When TeamHealth, a national physician staffing company, took over management of the emergency departments for Bon Secours Hampton Roads Health System last year, officials complained that the agreements made it hard to recruit doctors.

    Dr. Joseph Wood, past president of the American Academy of Emergency Medicine, said doctors should take a cue from lawyers and drum out the noncompete clause because “it compromises the client’s choice.”

    Goodman & Co. in Norfolk doesn’t restrict where accountants may work if they leave the firm, said Pat Callahan, a partner. However, it requires ex-employees no to take clients with them or, if they do, to pay the firm for them. That type of clause, which sometimes accompanies or is included in a noncompete, is known as a nonsolicitation agreement.

    Similarly, Northrop Grumman Corp. doesn’t have noncompete agreements for its engineers, but “we use proprietary data agreements to ensure any data or intellectual property remains with the company,” spokeswoman Jennifer Dellapenta said.

    All of WTKR-TV’s on-air personalities are bound by such clauses, as are most TV news anchors and reporters, said Dave Bunnell, the station’s president and general manager. “After you spend a year or years creating an identity or an image for an anchor, you don’t want them to take that money you invested in promoting them and walk across the street,” Bunnell said.

    The Virginian-Pilot does not use the agreements for its news staff or executives, but this year it began requiring new salespeople to sign them, said Bruce Bradley, the president and publisher. And when Landmark Communications Inc., which publishes The Pilot, buys businesses, it asks the former owners to sign one to ensure they don’t become competitors.

    A thriving field for noncompete agreements is the hair business, said Gross, who represents Norma Dorey, the owner of Changes Hairstyling and City Spa in Norfolk. “the fear among the salon owners is: I’ve paid you to work with me for four, five, six years, I’ve provided all of the training you need. I don’t want you to go to one of those rent-a-chair places,” Gross said.

    Eastern Virginia Medical School, Norfolk Southern Corp. and the accounting firm of Cherry, Bekaert & Holland declined to provide information.

    The contents of this publication are intended for general information only and should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion on specific facts and circumstances. Copyright 2024.