Outten & Golden attorneys have the skill and experience to represent physicians and dentists with respect to their particular employment needs and interests. We regularly assist medical professionals in negotiating and drafting employment agreements, advising and counseling during the employment relationship, negotiating and drafting severance agreements, advising and negotiating post-employment restrictions and resolving and litigating disputes.
Employment Agreements for Physicians & Dentists
Employment agreements between physicians or dentists and their employers often have special aspects that require thoughtful negotiation and drafting. A well-crafted employment agreement will help the employer and the medical professional define the responsibilities, compensation, benefits, obligations, and expectations between them during and after the employment relationship. Physicians and dentists, unlike other professionals, are often asked to enter into term contracts that bind them to the employer for a particular term (e.g. 1 to 5 years at a time), and often include strict post-employment restrictions that impact the career mobility. Similar issues may arise under partnership agreements involving such professionals and, even in states where non-competes are generally unenforceable, like California, post-employment restrictions on physicians or dentists who have a partnership or equity interest in the practice are enforceable.
Employment agreement terms that are of particular concern for physicians and dentists include:
- Duties and responsibilities (including on-call duties and expectations)
- Equipment and staff resources
- Compensation and benefits
- Partnership and/or equity stake in practice
- Malpractice coverage (including tail and/or nose coverage)
- Professional dues and continuing medical education
- Hospital affiliations and credentialing
- Licensing requirements
- Collateral professional activities and practices
- Non-competition and non-solicitation restrictions
Issues Arising During Employment
With or without an employment or partnership agreement, problems and disputes may arise during the employment relationship. An experienced employment lawyer can help address such situations through evaluation, analysis, coaching, negotiating, and (when necessary) litigating. Common issues include:
- Pressure to cover up misconduct, malfeasance, or fraud
- Reorganization and mergers
- Compensation issues
- Failure to provide equipment and resources
- Disputes between partners or with affiliated hospital or medical facility
- Internal politics
Separation or Termination of the Employment Relationship
When the employment (or partnership) relationship comes to an end, physicians and dentists often have special needs and interests that require careful negotiation with the employer. Such issues may include HIPAA and confidential information concerns, patient notification, non-competition restrictions, and professional liability tail insurance coverage. In such situations, the parties often have competing needs and interests, such as employer’s interests in continuing its business/practice and avoiding major financial commitments versus the individual’s interests in career mobility, financial security, and professionalism.
In certain termination situations, issues relating to licensing, hospital affiliation or suspension or cancelation of privileges can arise, particularly where there are allegations of misconduct or termination for “cause.” While we often work with outside counsel on state licensing and board certification issues, we frequently represent physicians in disciplinary proceedings or internal appeal processes within hospital or faculty practices.
Outten & Golden lawyers work closely with our physician and dentist clients to help them identify their particular separation concerns and issues, to help guide them through negotiations on their own behalf, or to negotiate on their behalf - keeping in mind that a commitment to providing quality patient care is typically is a core interest of our client.
In general, the negotiation of a separation agreement for a physician or dentist should seek to preserve and protect the client’s economic interests (whether or not set forth in the employment or partnership agreement), while also addressing any issues that have arisen during the employment relationship and minimizing any career or reputational harm that could accompany the transition. For example, if a non-compete, non-solicitation, or other restrictive covenant is problematic, Outten & Golden attorneys explore whether the negotiations should include a request for a waiver, narrowing, or other modification of such post-employment restrictions. Other separation issues that are commonly considered include equity buy-out or repurchase, non-disparagement and non-reemployment clauses, references or notices to credentialing authorities, and mutual releases.
Dispute Resolution - Courts and Arbitration
Obviously, disputes may arise between physicians and dentists and their employers/partnerships. Every effort should be made to resolve such disputes through discussions and negotiations; sometimes, mediation (a form of facilitated negotiation) can be helpful. When such measures fail or are futile, the parties may end up in litigation in arbitration or court. Many employment and partnership agreements provide for arbitration of disputes as the exclusive forum for disputes under the agreement. Our lawyers have substantial experience helping clients resolve disputes by means of effective advocacy in negotiations and mediations, as well as representing them in arbitration hearings and court litigation (including appellate/review proceedings) before judges, juries, and arbitrators.
If you are a physician or dentist who needs assistance with an employment or partnership agreement, an employment problem or dispute, or issues relating to separation, please contact the firm through the ”Contact Us" form or by calling us in the New York, Chicago, San Francisco, or Washington, DC office (see bottom of page for phone numbers) to begin the Outten & Golden intake process.