How long can a non-compete last in Arizona? Well, unfortunately, there is no single statute or code that lists a bright line amount of time for a non-compete in Arizona. There have been a few cases that have dealt with non-compete for physicians. And the court in those cases stated that one year was a reasonable amount of time for a non-compete. However, as I said before, it has not been enacted into law. So, when a court is looking at whether a non-compete is reasonable in Arizona, it looks at several factors. First, the scope of the non-compete, meaning what is it stopping the professional from doing? For a physician, it will most likely be the specialty that that physician is utilizing for a specific employer.
If you’re in sales, for instance, it may say you cannot practice in sales in the industry of whoever you’re working with. That is one way that an employer can get sneaky in keeping the scope as broad as possible. And I’ll give an example. Let’s just say you’re a salesperson and you’re working for a software company. You don’t want the non-compete to say you can’t work in sales for one year and within Maricopa County or something like that. You want it to say you can’t work in computer sales and even better, whatever the specific thing that you’re selling for that individual employer. And for a physician, for instance, let’s say you’re an internal medicine physician. You can do primary care, you can do urgent care, you could do ED, you could be a hospitalist. You don’t want the non-compete to state you can’t practice medicine at all.
You want it to state you can’t practice as a hospitalist, for instance, if you’re working as a hospitalist for an employer. So, keeping the scope narrow is important. Now, the length of time, which is the point of this blog. Most non-competes would be considered reasonable and enforceable that is one year in length. It’s not uncommon for some employers in Arizona to push it out to two years. Anything beyond that, I do not think would be enforceable, and anything between one to two years also is on the edge. But it’s not just if one section is completely unenforceable, the entire thing would be unenforceable. They look at the totality of the non-compete. So, is it a very narrowly tailored scope? Maybe it’s 18 months and then maybe the geographic restriction is very small compared to normal.
And then a court may say, okay, well, that’s reasonable. The aim is for no more than one year and no more than two years. For any of my healthcare-related clients, one year is the max that we’ll agree to. And then last is the geographic scope. This really is dependent upon what you’re doing. For healthcare providers, five to 10 miles from your primary practice location would be considered reasonable. However, if you’re in sales, certainly five to 10 miles would not be the geographic limitation for you. It would most likely be either by county or even by large sections of the entire state. Sometimes they’re statewide as well. It just depends. The specific industry that you’re in will dictate whether the geographic scope is considered reasonable or not.
Now, how do you negotiate? Well, obviously you need to do it before you sign the employment agreement or independent contractor agreement. I find that some employers will state, you know what, just sign this. We’ll never enforce it, don’t worry about it. Or sign it, and then we’ll negotiate it upon the termination of the agreement. Obviously, don’t do that. Never take the word of the employer. You need to negotiate it in advance of signing. And then, you need to figure out what is going to work best for you. If you want to decrease the mileage from, let’s say 10 to five miles, well, figure out, are there opportunities in that five-mile ban? If there aren’t, then you need to focus on other parts of it, either narrowing the scope or narrowing the time. Every individual is different, and their needs are different.
So, you need to identify, alright, this is exactly what I need if I must sign a non-compete to make this job worthwhile. Can an employer force you to sign a non-compete at all? Yes, they can. They can make it a contingent part of the agreement. And if you do not agree to sign the non-compete, then it’s extraordinarily likely that they’re just going to move on and find somebody else who wants to sign the non-compete. But no matter what, no job is worth it if the non-compete is really going to put a, I guess, hardship upon the professional. Meaning, let’s say you have established ties to the area, you grew up here, you have family here, and you absolutely cannot move once the contract is terminated. That could be the absolute number one thing that you attempt to negotiate when looking at the agreement, it could even be more important than compensation. Once again, the professional dictates what is most important. Hopefully, that was helpful. A little breakdown of how long, an average non-compete can be in Arizona.