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Appeals court finds for employee in fight over non-compete pact

August 29, 2014

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 first employer two years earlier constituted the beginning of his non-compete agreement, and his new job fell outside that two-year non-compete restriction.

Carey Helmuth worked at Carmel-based Nightingale Home Healthcare Inc. as a patient advocate. When he joined the company on 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 on Oct. 26, 2009, but did not sign a new non-compete agreement.

Helmuth’s employment ended with Nightingale on March 5, 2012, and he began working with Physiocare Home Healthcare LLC as a patient advocate almost immediately. Physiocare is based in Lafayette and has offices in Indianapolis and Kokomo.

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.
 

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