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What the FTC’s Rule Banning Non-Competes Means for Healthcare

The FTC unveiled its long-awaited final rule banning most non-compete agreements during a live broadcast of a Commission meeting on April 23, 2024. The proposed rule, which was first announced in January 2023, underwent an extensive public comment process in which approximately 26,000 comments were received. According to the FTC, approximately 25,000 of these comments supported a total ban on non-competes. While there was some expectation that the final rule would be less aggressive than the proposed rule, that turned out not to be the case. By late summer 2024, most employers, except for non-profit organizations, will not be able to enforce or obtain non-competes in the U.S. except in extremely narrow circumstances. The new rule will take effect 120 days after it is published in the Federal Register. Assuming the rule is published this week, we can expect it to take effect by late August. That is, of course, if a court does not enjoin the rule first. Shortly after the rule was announced on April 23, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce stated its intention to sue the FTC. U.S. Chamber to Sue FTC Over Unlawful Power Grab on Noncompete Agreements Ban | U.S. Chamber of Commerce ( The first lawsuit challenging the new rule was filed on April 23, Ryan, LLC v. Federal Trade Commission, Case No. 3:24cv986 (N.D. Tex. Apr. 23, 2024). Among other relief, the Ryan suit seeks to have the rule vacated and set aside. There are significant legal questions concerning whether the FTC has the authority to take this action by rulemaking or whether this is best left to the legislative process. While some U.S. states have banned non-competes, many U.S. states have not banned them.

As written, the rule will have profound effects on virtually every industry, especially health care, where non-competes are common in physician and mid-level practitioner employment agreements. As several Commissioners indicated during the April 23 meeting, they are particularly concerned about non-competes in health care and believe this rule will save approximately $74-194 billion in reduced spending on physician services over the next decade.

Following is Nelson Mullins’ quick take on what health care employers need to know:

  1. The rule does not apply to non-profits. The basis for the rule making is Section 5 of the FTC Act, which doesn’t apply to non-profits. So, a non-profit health system that has non-competes with physicians or other workers is not impacted by the rule. Be aware, though, that the FTC may be looking to test whether some non-profit health systems are really operating as true non-profits. Tax exempt status alone will not be enough. We believe, however, that given significant and quantifiable charitable benefits that most non-profit systems provide, the FTC may be hard pressed to find a good test case within the non-profit health care industry.
  2. For all others, the rule bans all non-compete agreements for any worker, regardless of title, job function, or compensation, after the effective date. Thus, a for-profit health system or for-profit physician practice that uses non-competes will be significantly limited. The only non-competes that will be allowed to remain in force are non-competes for “Senior Executives” that were entered into before the rule becomes effective.
  3. The rule will take effect 120 days after it is published in the Federal Register. This will likely occur this week, so we expect the effective date to be approximately August 20, 2024.
  4. The rule rescinds existing non-competes for all workers who are not “Senior Executives.”
  5. “Senior Executive” is a narrowly-defined term meaning:
    1. a person in a policy making position; and
    2. who was paid at least $151,164 in the prior year.
  6. Existing non-competes for Senior Executives are not rescinded. New non-competes with Senior Executives entered into prior to the effective date are still allowed. However, no new non-competes with Senior Executives may be entered into after the effective date.
  7. “Policy-making position” means: President, CEO, or equivalent, or other person who has policy making authority, i.e., decisions that control a significant aspect of a business entity. Most clinicians will not meet the definition of “Senior Executive.”
  8. Non-senior executives who are now under a non-compete must be given notice by the effective date that their non-compete will not be, and cannot legally be, enforced. Model language for the notice is in the rule.

Copyright ©2024 Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP

by: Denise M. Gunter, Carrie A. Hanger, Candace S. Friel of Nelson Mullins
For more news on the Implications of the FTC Noncompete Ban on Healthcare, visit the NLR Health Law & Managed Care section.

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