This story first appeared in the Cowboy State Daily
By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily
The Wyoming Supreme Court has ruled that companies cannot protect themselves against normal business competition with “non-compete clauses”.
The court overturned a district court ruling Thursday that three nurses who had worked for a home care company in Evanston were banned from working for a competing company.
According to the verdict, Jennifer Brown, Nora Youngren and Carol Wolfe, all registered nurses, worked for Best Home Health and Hospice, a home care company in Uinta County. Wolfe founded Best Home in 2004 and sold it in 2009 or 2010.
In 2016, Youngren and Brown signed a non-compete agreement that said they would not work for a competing company within 50 miles for two years if they left Best Home. Wolfe signed the agreement when she returned to the company in 2017.
All three nurses left the company between 2018 and 2020 and moved to Uinta Home Health, a competitor of Best Home.
Best Home filed for and received an injunction to prevent the nurses from working for Uinta Home Health pending the outcome of a lawsuit over their departure. The nurses appealed the restraining order, arguing that the non-compete clause was unenforceable, but it was granted by a state district court.
However, in Judge Keith Kautz’s statement, the judges said that the state normally only recognizes a non-compete clause in special situations, such as when an employer fears an employee might share trade secrets with another company.
“Best Home has not shown that it would likely succeed in establishing a special business interest that is subject to the protection of the non-competition clause of the agreement,” the statement said. “Best Home has not identified any trade secrets, special types of confidential information or special relationships that are protected by the non-compete clause …”
The judges also found that the nurses were wrongly prevented from producing evidence that the public interest would be harmed because patient care would be jeopardized if they could not work at Uinta Home Health.
The court ordered the case to be retried.
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