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COA: Break in employment triggered non-compete agreement

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A man who joined a competitor immediately after his employment ended at another company did not violate a non-compete agreement, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled Thursday. The judges agreed that a 10-day break in employment with the prior employer two years earlier constituted the beginning of his non-compete agreement, and his new job falls outside that two-year non-compete restriction.

Carey Helmuth worked at Nightingale Home Healthcare Inc. as a patient advocate. When he joined the company Jan. 24, 2008, he signed a non-compete agreement barring him from working with a company in a similar field and in a similar position for two years after separation from the company.

In October 2009, Nightingale fired him. But 10 days later, the company offered to revoke the termination and allow him to return to his prior position. He returned to work for Nightingale Oct. 26, 2009, but did not sign a new non-compete agreement. Helmuth’s employment ended with Nightingale March 5, 2012, and he began working with Physiocare Home Healthcare LLC as a patient advocate almost immediately.

Nightingale sued Helmuth and its competitor, arguing he breached the non-compete agreement. The trial court ruled in favor of Helmuth and Physiocare, agreeing with the defendants that the non-compete agreement expired in October of 2011 due to the break in Helmuth’s employment.

“Despite Nightingale’s characterization of Helmuth’s rehire as a revocation and rescission of the previous termination, we find that, based on the evidence, Nightingale’s conduct is more properly defined as a separation from the company which was unconditional and intended to operate as a permanent termination of the employment relationship between Nightingale and Helmuth,” Judge Patricia Riley wrote in Nightingale Home Healthcare, Inc. v. Carey Helmuth and Physiocare Home Healthcare, LLC, 29A04-1403-PL-121.

“Mindful that non-compete agreements are disfavored by law and strictly construed against the employer, we conclude that there is no issue of material fact that Helmuth was indeed separated from Nightingale on October 16, 2009, which marked the starting point of the two-year restrictive period of the Non-Compete Agreement,” she continued. “Absent the execution of a new non-compete agreement on October 26, 2009 or a written extension of the prior Non-Compete Agreement, Helmuth’s restrictive period ended on or about October 16, 2011. Therefore, at the time of entering into an employment relationship with Physiocare in May of 2012, Helmuth was no longer bound by the provisions of the Non-Compete Agreement.”


 

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  1. A sad end to a prolific gadfly. Indiana has suffered a great loss in the journalistic realm.

  2. Good riddance to this dangerous activist judge

  3. What is the one thing the Hoosier legal status quo hates more than a whistleblower? A lawyer whistleblower taking on the system man to man. That must never be rewarded, must always, always, always be punished, lest the whole rotten tree be felled.

  4. I want to post this to keep this tread alive and hope more of David's former clients might come forward. In my case, this coward of a man represented me from June 2014 for a couple of months before I fired him. I knew something was wrong when he blatantly lied about what he had advised me in my contentious and unfortunate divorce trial. His impact on the proceedings cast a very long shadow and continues to impact me after a lengthy 19 month divorce. I would join a class action suit.

  5. The dispute in LB Indiana regarding lake front property rights is typical of most beach communities along our Great Lakes. Simply put, communication to non owners when visiting the lakefront would be beneficial. The Great Lakes are designated navigational waters (including shorelines). The high-water mark signifies the area one is able to navigate. This means you can walk, run, skip, etc. along the shores. You can't however loiter, camp, sunbath in front of someones property. Informational signs may be helpful to owners and visitors. Our Great Lakes are a treasure that should be enjoyed by all. PS We should all be concerned that the Long Beach, Indiana community is on septic systems.

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