Habush Habush and Rottier

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Epic and the Non-Compete

My google alert for the QA class action lawsuit notified me of something interesting this week. Apparently, some of the local consulting companies were poaching from Epic. Thanks to some shady practices which have all been mentioned in the comments on this blog, Epic got Vonlay (which is in the process of being bought by Huron Consulting Group in Chicago) to agree to a two year non-compete for ex-Epic employees. Read the article here.

There are several noteworthy items. I've italicized quotes from the Isthmus article.
  1. The Healthcare IT world knows that Epic underpays and overworks its employees. As soon as the ex-employee goes to consulting, they start to make double the pay with fewer hours. "You can make $180,000 to $200,000 a year," says a consulting executive, compared to the $100,000 that same employee might have made back at Epic. "And for us, it's 40 hours billable, maybe 50 total including travel."
  2. Non-competes are bad for job-seekers, bad for companies looking for qualified staff, and bad for communities. There is, in fact, compelling evidence that broad no-compete clauses suppress economic activity and damage wage levels, according to the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, which promotes entrepreneurialism. It reports that "job creation and economic growth will be hindered" by the clauses, and workers subject to strict noncompete terms suffer "lower compensation in their next job, skill atrophy and a degradation of professional networks."
  3. Epic is shady. Epic had successfully intervened at the 11th hour to insist that Huron not hire Epic employees within two years of them leaving the company. 
  4. Epic operates with questionable legality. [Speculation] circles around Epic fearing it might be treading on federal antitrust laws and being accused of anti-competitive business practices.
  5.  Epic doesn't want what's best for its customers or what's best for its employees. Epic only wants what's best for EpicJudy. Epic enforces its no-hire clause through "conspiring" with its customers, which include all of the hospitals and major physician practices, and through the third-party consulting companies.  Epic... effectively dictates job terms and other matters to the consulting companies, whose business is augmenting staff and fine-tuning software for Epic clients once their system is up and running. If those consulting firms fail to toe the Epic line, the company can deny them access to the technical documentation for a health system's Epic software. And that means the consultants can't do their job.
    Clients, on the other hand, are rewarded for agreeing to honor Epic's noncompete clause in their own hiring -- in the form of receiving substantial "preferred customer" discounts to their yearly maintenance fees.
    In the end, this means a hospital can't turn around and hire the young Epic whiz kid who just spent two years installing its Epic software. Nor can that Epic wiz kid quit her job and walk across the street to work for an Epic consultant who might have a contract with that hospital
  6. If there were enough backlash, Epic might back down further on the non-compete. Huron and Vonlay officials did not respond to queries, but Epic spokesman Brian Spranger confirmed that Huron had agreed to a two-year noncompete term. And then the shocker: "This is being reverted to a one-year term." Spranger offered no explanation in his email for the reversal. "We'd rather not comment on the policy as a whole." 
This was one of the more interesting articles I've read about Epic in a long time. Perception is reality, according to the pre-staff meeting powerpoint slides. I wonder how Judy feels about her company being perceived as a shady, strangleholding, antitrust-worthy corporate giant.