Failing to hire a contract lawyer with specific knowledge of physician employment agreements can result in problems. When you hire an experienced lawyer, you will avoid many pitfalls that can have long-lasting effects on your professional and personal life.
Understanding Employment Contracts for Physicians
Hiring entities are moving towards taking employment agreements and standardizing them, trying to simplify matters. However, there is still an opening to negotiate agreement terms. It would help if you did, as you want the agreement to cover the essential points and not be open to interpretation. It is one reason an agreement lawyer is so crucial in the review process of employment agreements. Unfair or ambiguous points of an agreement can be addressed and handled.
Pitfalls to Watch For in a Physician Employment Agreement
Physicians should be careful about the employment agreement language. It can be vague or favorable to the employer and not the employee. It can appear anywhere but is particularly difficult regarding the physician’s roles and responsibilities. When you see the words “… will be determined by the practice…” it is time to be wary.
Bonuses and compensation based on productivity are other areas to review carefully. Any payment of bonus and incentives should be paid through the time of termination rather than a specific date. The wording here is crucial. The benefits start date also should be carefully reviewed, or the physician could get stuck paying COBRA premiums himself until the start date in the agreement of the new employer. You should refer to a trusted source like the United States Department of Labor for more details on COBRA benefits.
Restrictive non-compete clauses must be reviewed so it doesn’t keep a physician from working for other specific competitors. These clauses also should be reviewed so the physician won’t be restricted from areas near where he now lives.
Failing to Hire Lawyers to Review Physician Employment Agreements?
Attorneys will be able to effectively review an agreement, making sure anything vague or which is an overreach is modified and made clear and reasonable. All the agreement terms need reasonable boundaries, and an agreement lawyer can ensure this occurs.
What Should I Look for in a Physician Contract?
Many ask what I should look for in a physician contract. Hiring a medical agreement lawyer is a wise decision, as you want to be sure everything is in order before you sign. A medical agreement lawyer will know and understand the rules of the region where you practice and will see that everything in the medical agreement is worded and formatted correctly so you and your practice of medicine are protected in the future. The American Bar Association offers some resources on selecting the right attorney.
There are several vital elements to look for in a physician’s agreement. A physician agreement covers many areas, many of which reflect compensation. But there are other concepts that an agreement does need to cover. The medical agreement must specify the employer’s wishes and reflect your rights and interests.
Vital Elements in a Medical Contract for Physicians
We can’t cover every element in a physician employment agreement here, but we want to cover the most critical points if possible.
Here are some vital elements that you should look for in a physician employment agreement.
- Guarantee of Income – an income guarantee ensures a physician will earn a certain amount each month after expenses. The period that this is done extends for one or two years. If a physician makes less than the guaranteed income from the hospital, the hospital will make up the difference. If the physician makes more, he keeps it at the end of the guarantee period. He would owe the hospital the difference if he earned less at the end of the period. However, many of the income guarantees come with a forgiveness clause. Details should be reviewed in any agreement.
- Benefits – benefits should be written out clearly in any employment agreement. They usually include malpractice and health insurance. There can be other benefits offered when the salary is less than competitive.
- Hours Worked – the employer’s requirement may differ from the physician’s idea of how many hours he wants to work or is expected to work. It has to be reviewed in physician employment contracts and negotiated as needed.
- Vacation Time – this should be specified in any physician’s agreement and is often a negotiated point.
- Forgiveness of Educational Loans – at times, the contract may specify that the employer will pay the medical education loans of the physician. It is a crucial point to look at in the employment agreement.
- Partnership – especially for high in-demand specialties, an agreement should contain a point about the path to collaboration. It needs to be reviewed to ensure it is spelled out.
- Termination – the employment agreement should include a clause about termination – the two types of provision being covered (with cause, without cause).
How Do I Get Out of a Physician Contract?
After signing physician employment contracts, a situation may require you to get out of your contract. So, how do I get out of a physician contract? It could be because of difficulties within the job, with the employer, or having unavoidable personal problems. No matter the reason, it is essential for a physician to understand the legalities of terminating employment and how that fits in with his or her signed contract.
A Right to Terminate the Agreement by the Employer and Employee
Standard contracts have clauses that require a 90-day notice from either the physician or his employer when one or the other wants to end the contract. Sometimes the notice period is 180 days, but the time frame seldom exceeds that. It will occur when it is difficult to fill the position. However, regardless of the period delineated on the contract, sometimes a physician needs to terminate early.
When a physician is going to leave a position before the notice period ends, the employer may be understanding and work out an agreeable plan, mainly when it is a family emergency or the like. However, if the physician wants to leave early because of a better job offer, this can create problems for the physician exiting. It could be considered a breach of contract.
Specific Right to Terminate by Either Party
Besides a notice period in a contract, it should have a Right to Terminate clause. The term for this is termination for cause and means that one or the other (employee or employer) did not uphold the contract terms. To cover this fully, you must ensure you have all the correct wording in a contract. A lawyer can help with a contract review to ensure it is appropriately included.
How to Avoid Practice Issues and Problems
The best way to avoid problems with any contract termination is to ensure a contract is reviewed with this in mind before signing. The physician himself can review it, but it is best to have a contract lawyer look it over and fix any points that aren’t clear or negotiate changes in the contract so it is clear and aboveboard.
Physician Contract Lawyer
When experienced attorneys review your employment contract, you will find great financial benefits that outweigh the cost of the analysis. If you need assistance with an employment agreement or agreement audit, schedule a review with a Physician Contract Lawyer with Chelle Law today!
We are a dedicated team of legal professionals specializing in physician contracts at Physician Contract Attorney. With years of experience in the healthcare industry, we deeply understand the challenges faced by physicians when navigating complex employment contracts. Our mission is to ensure that our clients are protected and well-represented. We focus on providing sound legal advice tailored to your unique needs, empowering you to negotiate your contract with confidence. For more information or to schedule a consultation, please reach out to us today.