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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. Your article is a good intro the recent amendments to Fed.R.Civ.P. For a much longer - though not necessarily better -- summary, counsel might want to read THE CHIEF UMPIRE IS CHANGING THE STRIKE ZONE, which I co-authored and which was just published in the January issue of THE VERDICT (the monthly publication of the Indiana Trial Lawyers Association).

  2. Thank you, John Smith, for pointing out a needed correction. The article has been revised.

  3. The "National institute for Justice" is an agency for the Dept of Justice. That is not the law firm you are talking about in this article. The "institute for justice" is a public interest law firm. http://ij.org/ thanks for interesting article however

  4. I would like to try to find a lawyer as soon possible I've had my money stolen off of my bank card driver pressed charges and I try to get the information they need it and a Social Security board is just give me a hold up a run around for no reason and now it think it might be too late cuz its been over a year I believe and I can't get the right information they need because they keep giving me the runaroundwhat should I do about that

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