US FTC is Banning Non-competes Nationwide: What This Means For Veterinary Professionals

Dr. Kristin Kemper in Seattle, Smiling at the camera

On April 23, 2024, The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently announced a ruling that bans noncompete agreements in certain professions, including veterinary professionals. Noncompete agreements have been a common practice in many industries, including healthcare and petcare, for years. These agreements typically restrict employees from working for a competitor or starting their own competing business for a certain period of time after leaving their current employer. In the veterinary field, noncompetes have often been used by hospitals and clinics to protect their patient base, trade secrets, and investments in training their staff.

The FTC ruling banning noncompetes means that veterinary professionals may have more freedom to pursue better and additional job opportunities without being restricted by non-compete agreements. This ruling could lead to increased job mobility, higher wages, improved working conditions, and increased collaboration for veterinary professionals.

Impact on Job Mobility

Noncompete agreements have long been a common practice in veterinary medicine; they typically restrict employee veterinary professionals from working for a competitor or starting their own veterinary business for a specified period after leaving their current employer. For veterinarians, the non-compete’s restrictions often limited their ability to seek new job opportunities without facing legal consequences or moving 60 miles from their current employment.

With the FTC’s ruling banning noncompetes, veterinary professionals now have more freedom to explore different career paths and pursue opportunities that align with their professional goals. This can include full-time work, part-time work, or gig work. Newfound job mobility can empower veterinarians to seek out positions that offer extra income, better compensation, benefits, work-life balance, and overall job satisfaction.

Potential for Higher Wages

Noncompete agreements can sometimes suppress wages by limiting competition among employers for skilled workers. When employees are free to move between jobs more easily, employers may need to offer competitive salaries and benefits to attract and retain top talent. For veterinary professionals, this could mean an increase in wages as employers strive to remain competitive in a more fluid job market. Higher wages not only benefit individual workers but also contribute to overall economic growth and stability within the veterinary industry.

In addition, veterinary professionals will be able to augment a full-time job with a side gig such as working an extra relief shift with Roo or Indevets, at-home end-of-life care with CodaPet, or telehealth with Dutch.

Improved Working Conditions

With an increasing corporate aggregator buyout environment, the FTC ruling could potentially lead to improved working conditions for veterinary professionals. Noncompete agreements can create power imbalances between employers and employees, with veterinarians feeling trapped in unfavorable work environments due to restrictive contractual obligations.

The new FTC ruling may empower veterinary professionals to negotiate for better working conditions, such as flexible schedules, improved benefits packages, and enhanced educational opportunities. By eliminating non-competes,, employers may be incentivized to create more attractive workplace environments to attract and retain top talent in a more competitive job market.

Promotion of Innovation and Collaboration

By lifting the restrictions imposed by noncompete agreements, the FTC ruling may also promote innovation and collaboration within the veterinary field. Veterinarians will have more flexibility to collaborate with colleagues from different institutions, share best practices, and contribute to advancements in petcare research and best practices. This free flow of ideas and talent can drive innovation in patient care delivery, treatment methods, and medical technologies.

In conclusion, the FTC ruling banning noncompetes represents a significant milestone for veterinary professionals seeking greater job flexibility and autonomy. A variety of big-business groups have vowed to sue to bring non-competes back, but at least for now, they're gone. The elimination of these restrictive agreements opens up new possibilities for career advancement, higher wages, improved working conditions, and increased innovation and collaboration within the veterinary industry. As this ruling takes effect, it will be essential for both employers and employees in the field to adapt to a more dynamic and competitive employment landscape.

By Karen Whala, DVM, MPH, DACVPM and Co-founder of CodaPet