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7 Employment Contract Blunders for Physicians to Avoid…

According to data provided by the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), there are more than 950,000 professionally active physicians in the United States, including nearly 62,000 in the state of Texas alone.

Each year, many of these physicians change jobs and many new doctors enter the field directly out of residency.

When a physician starts a new job, the terms of their employment will largely be governed by a contract. Unfortunately, many physicians end up signing unfavorable employment agreements that do not adequately protect their rights.

In this article physician contract review lawyer Robert Wood discuss the most important employment contract blunders that all physicians must take care to avoid.

1. Failing to Hire a Contract Lawyer with Specific Knowledge of Physician Employment Agreements

The single biggest employment contract mistake that Texas physicians make is failing to hire a qualified attorney to review and negotiate the terms of their agreement. This is especially true for new physicians, who may agree to accept one of their first job offers after a relatively brief negotiation.

If you are a physician who is preparing to accept a new position, it is imperative that you have a skilled legal professional by your side as early on in the negotiation process as is possible. To best protect your legal rights and financial interests, it is recommended that you consult with an experienced physician employment contract lawyer before you even begin negotiating the terms of the agreement.

2. Not Researching an Employer’s Background and Credentials

Before agreeing to take a new position, medical professionals should be sure that they have conducted a thorough investigation of an employer’s background and credentials. Certainly, it is important to pay attention to all of the contract terms that will affect you directly, including compensation and termination provisions. At the same time, it is just as important to ensure that you research an employer’s general background, including the turnover rate, your ability to make partner, medical malpractice issues, and the overall financial health of the business. You want to make sure you are committing yourself to a reliable company.

3. Failing to Get Promises in Writing

While some people do not realize it, oral contracts are sometimes legally enforceable. That being said, it is relatively difficult to hold an employer to a verbal promise, especially if that promise is counteracted by something that is in writing. In order to properly protect yourself, you should be sure to have all important promises spelled out in clear language within your written agreement. A skilled physician contract review lawyer can help you make sure that the contract terms are enforceable and that they are effective for your individual needs.

4. Allowing Ambiguous Language Into the Agreement

In some cases, contract litigation is necessary to hold employers to the promises that were included within a physician’s employment contract. Of course, being forced to file a lawsuit to protect your rights is never ideal. Even if you prevail in litigation, you still have to spend the time and resources dealing with the dispute.

By hiring an experienced Texas physician contract lawyer early on in the negotiation process, you can dramatically reduce your risk of ending up in a legal dispute. In drafting a contract, ambiguous terms and fuzzy language should be avoided. Your attorney will make sure that your employment contract is clear and that it is enforceable.

5. Overlooking Restrictive Non-Compete Clauses

Far too many physicians simply overlook non-compete clauses. This is a major mistake. As our Dallas employment law attorneys have discussed before, a properly drafted non-compete clause can be enforced in Texas. Before signing a physician contract, it is critically important that you pay careful attention to any non-compete language. While you may be planning on staying in this position for the long haul, you never know what the future is going to bring.

Please be sure that you understand the precise terms of any non-compete provision that you are allowing into your employment agreement. A physician contract attorney can ensure that any non-compete language within your agreement is fair. If you are giving up the ability to compete, you deserve full and fair consideration for that sacrifice. Alternatively, if you are not willing to give up the ability to compete in the future, that language should be removed from the contract.

6. Agreeing to Unfair Termination Rules

For the most part, the terms of a physician’s employment will be governed by their contract. While there are also federal and state labor laws that provide medical professionals with certain legal protections, these laws may not protect you from the termination of your ‘at will’ position. Often, medical professionals do not give much thought to the termination provisions within their contact.

When a physician signs their employment contract, their employer will likely be eager to add them to the team. It can sometimes be difficult to anticipate that an employment relationship could turn sour. Unfortunately, unexpected things happen. Before you sign an agreement, please be sure to consult with a qualified physician contract lawyer who will help you negotiate and structure fair termination provisions.

7. Not Understanding Payment and Bonus Terms

Finally, all physicians should have a clear understanding of the full terms of their compensation package. You cannot merely look at the top line salary number. To know the true value of the agreement, all forms of compensation must be considered. Beyond salary, you should also review bonus terms, outside income that you may be able to earn, educational reimbursement, malpractice insurance, health insurance coverage, retirement benefits, and other fringe benefits. You need a full compensation package that is fair to your true market value.

FAQ: My experience handling physician employment contract and non-compete issues

Q. Have You Worked With Physicians?

A. Yes. I have reviewed hundreds of physician agreements.

Q. What’s the Best Piece of Advice You Have for Physicians?

A. Have a lawyer review any employment agreement before you sign it. An experienced attorney will notice provisions that appear innocuous but are in fact problematic. Often, an attorney will be able to suggest additional language to add to the language.

Q. Have You Reviewed Multi-Party Agreements Between a Hospital, a Medical Practice and an Individual Physician?

A. Yes, many times.

Q. Have You Represented Physicians in Lawsuits and Arbitrations?

A. Yes, with great success.

Contact Our Texas Physician Contract Lawyers Today

At Wood Edwards LLP, our Dallas employment law attorneys have extensive experience handling all aspects of physician contracts. To learn more about what our physician contract review lawyers can do for you, please do not hesitate to contact us today for a fully confidential consultation. With an office in Dallas, we represent clients throughout the region.

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