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 effect on your professional and personal life.
Understanding Employment Contracts for Physicians
Hiring entities seem to be moving towards taking an employment agreement and standardizing them, trying to simplify matters. However, there is still an opening to negotiate agreement terms. In fact, it is important that you do, as you want the agreement to cover the important points and not be open to any interpretation. This is one reason an agreement lawyer is so important 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 show up anywhere but is particularly difficult when it comes to the physician’s schedule and duties. When you see the words “… will be determined by the practice…” it is time to be wary.
Bonuses and compensation based on productivity are another area to review carefully. Any payment of bonuses and incentives should be paid through the time of termination rather than a specific date. The wording here is crucial. The benefit 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.
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 a agreement, making sure anything vague or which is an overreach is modified and made clear and reasonable. All the agreement terms need to have reasonable boundaries, and an agreement lawyer can ensure this occurs.
What Should I Look for in a Physician Contract?
Many ask what should I look for in a physician contract? Hiring a medical agreement lawyer is a very 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.
There are a number of key elements to look for in a physician’s agreement. A physician agreement covers a large variety of areas, many of which reflect compensation. But there are other concepts that a agreement does need to cover. Needless to say, the medical agreement needs to specify what the employer wishes, but it also needs to reflect your rights and your interests.
Vital Elements in a Medical Contract for Physicians
We can’t cover every single element in a physician employment agreement here, but we do want to cover the most important points if possible. Here are some vital elements that you should look for in a physician employment agreement.
- Guarantee of Income – an income guarantee is something that ensures a physician will earn a certain amount each month after expenses. The period that this is done usually 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. If at the end of the period, he makes less, he would owe the hospital the difference. 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 be quite different than the physician’s idea of how many hours he wants to work or is expected to work. This has to be looked over 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 agreement may specify that the employer will pay the medical education loans of the physician. This is an important 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 partnership. This needs to be reviewed to ensure it is clearly spelled out.
- Termination – the employment agreement should contain 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, there may be a situation that requires you to get out of your contract. So, you may be asking how do I get out of a physician contract? It could be because of difficulties within the job itself, with the employer or having personal problems that are unavoidable. No matter the reason, it is important 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 goes above that. This will occur when it is difficult to fill the position. However, regardless of the time period delineated on the contract, sometimes a physician has a need to terminate early.
Many times when a physician is going to leave a position before the notice period ends, the employer may just be understanding and work out an agreeable plan, particularly 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 in the physician exiting. This could be considered a breach of contract.
Specific Right to Terminate by Either Party
Besides a notice period laid out in a contract, it should have a Right to Terminate clause. The term for this is called termination for cause and means that one or the other (employee or employer) did not uphold the terms of the contract. You have to ensure you have all the right wording in a contract so this is fully covered. An lawyer can help with a contract review to ensure it is included properly.
How to Avoid Practice Issues and Problems
The best way to avoid problems on any termination of contract 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 your employment contract is reviewed by experienced attorneys, you will find great financial benefits which end up outweighing the cost of the analysis. Employees in need of assistance with an employment agreement or agreement audit, schedule a review with a Physician Contract Lawyer with Chelle Law today!