Alabama Signals Possible Expansion of Exemption for “Professionals” from Non-Compete Restrictions
Alabama does not enforce non-solicitation and non-compete agreements against professionals as that term is traditionally defined – to include, by example, physicians, lawyers, and accountants. In G.L.S. & Associates, Inc. v. Rogers, 2014 Ala. Civ. App. Lexis 87 (2014), the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals recently opened up a possible expansion as to what qualifies as a “professional”. The plaintiff in Rogers worked as a securities broker and was sued by his former employer pursuant to a non-solicitation agreement. Plaintiff filed a motion to dismiss arguing that he was a professional, based upon his job duties and responsibilities (including regulatory obligations), and, therefore, the non-solicitation agreement was unenforceable as a matter of law. No evidence outside the initial pleadings was offered. The trial court agreed with the plaintiff and dismissed the lawsuit.
In reversing the lower court, the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals found that whether a securities broker is a professional was a matter of first impression and no evidence was introduced to support such an argument. This leaves open the possibility that once the record is fully developed, the traditional definition of what qualifies as a “professional” may be expanded. This would be particularly impactful in the securities industry. That is, the Rogers court reasoned that the definition of a professional is subject to expansion provided the evidence is properly before the trial court for such a determination.