Health Care Employment Contract Review

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Don’t Let Conflicts Arise from Poorly Drafted Agreements and Unclear Responsibilities/Expectations: Let Our Healthcare Employment Contract Lawyers Make Things Right

NOTE: Chapman Law Group DOES NOT represent licensed healthcare professionals in employment law matters such as Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), retaliation/wrongful discharge, workplace harassment, wage/hour, employment discrimination, and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). These are matters for which we recommend you contact a  labor and employment law attorney.

Our team of health care attorneys frequently help physicians, practice owners, managers, and other health professionals draft and negotiate healthcare-based employment contracts. We also represent parties during healthcare employment contract disputes.

Conflicts generally arise because of poorly drafted agreements that fail to clearly identify the parties responsibilities and expectations. Often, employers use standard employment contracts that may not be ideal for every employment situation. These standard contracts, typically used as a starting point for negotiation, need considerable modification.

Not surprising, healthcare employer-drafted contracts are often written in favor of that employer. Therefore, physicians and other licensed healthcare professionals should fully understand their rights and responsibilities under the contract before executing it.

Our health care attorneys assist physicians and other healthcare professionals with understanding the terms of their healthcare employment contracts. We also review contracts to identify areas of potential conflict that may lead to future litigation. As trained negotiators, we can also broker on behalf of physicians to remove unfavorable terms and add favorable ones to their health care employment contract.

What Are Common Healthcare Employment Contract Provisions and What Do They Mean?

Termination Clauses

Termination clauses in employer-drafted healthcare employment contracts generally outline the terms in which the employer can terminate the physician prior to the expiration of the contract. Such provisions usually provide that the employer can terminate the agreement at any time “for cause.” 

The contract will likely define “for cause” to include any restrictions or limitations on the physician’s ability to practice and participate in Medicare and Medicaid. “For cause” may also include limitations that prevent the physician from fulfilling his/her obligations under the agreement and failure to maintain hospital privileges. The employment contract may provide that the employer can terminate the physician upon occurrence of a “for cause” event. 

Our healthcare attorneys can help negotiate to add a notice provision that requires the healthcare employer to provide notice of a deficiency and provide a certain period of time for the physician to correct the deficiency before the physician can be terminated.

Provisions that allow termination “without cause” allow the party to terminate the contract for any reason. Physicians should be aware that these kinds of provisions limit the length of the contract to the period of notice required. In other words, a three-year employment contract that allows the employer to terminate employment without cause, providing they give the physician 90 days’ notice, is really only a 90-day employment contract, not a three-year contract.

Physicians should also pay close attention to whether there is a fee (e.g. reimbursement of moving, training, recruitment expenses, signing bonus) to terminate employment. Often, our attorneys are successful in having such provisions removed.

Physicians should ensure that their health care employment contracts contain a provision that allows the physician to also terminate the contract with or without cause.

Non-Compete / Restrictive Covenants

While courts may not enforce certain restrictive covenants, these covenants should be removed or reduced whenever possible, to lessen the likelihood of future litigation. If the provision cannot be removed, we often negotiate to restrict the covenant to cases where employment at the healthcare entity is terminated by the physician without cause. Our health care attorneys also negotiate to reduce the geographic region, length of time, and area of specialty for which the covenant applies.

Compensation and Incentives

Whether it is a small part or bulk of the physician’s total compensation, physicians are often paid bonuses or incentives to encourage better performance. Physicians who are eligible for productivity-based compensation should ensure that their healthcare employment contracts specify how such compensation will be determined and paid. If the physician will also receive benefits — such as payment of health insurance, retirement account contributions, paid time off, CMEs, or licensing fees — the physician employment contracts should include these additional benefits.

Compensation is usually included in the offer of employment. Physicians should pay close attention to the final healthcare employment contract to ensure that all agreed terms have been included in the final health care employment contract. This may be through incorporation of the offer into the contract.

Liability Insurance

Given the significant cost of malpractice insurance, physician healthcare employment contracts should state who is responsible for payment of malpractice insurance. If the policy is claims-made, physicians need to consider whether the policy will require tail coverage when the physician leaves the healthcare practice. If tail coverage is required, the contract should state which party is responsible for payment of such coverage.

Assignment and Power to Contract

Some physician employment contracts will contain a provision for reassignment of payment from CMS and/or third-party payors. This provision allows the employer to bill and collect payment for services rendered by the physician on behalf of the physician. The provision will also restrict the physician from billing for services rendered during the course of employment at the healthcare entity. Physician employment contracts may also contain a provision that grants the employer the right to contract with managed care organizations on the physician’s behalf.

Exclusivity and Outside Activities

Healthcare employers may seek to restrict the physician’s ability to perform outside activities through an exclusivity provision. Often these provisions seek to restrict the physician’s ability to practice medicine outside of employment at the healthcare entity (e.g. moonlighting). These provisions may also seek to restrict other activities such as expert witness services, teaching, and research. Some healthcare employers seek to require written approval before the physician can perform these outside activities; it is advised that these provisions be removed or at least reduced.

Missing Provisions

It is not always what is in the healthcare employment contract, but what is missing that is the source of litigation. Our attorneys are experienced in drafting healthcare employment contracts and can easily spot missing provisions that would be beneficial to the healthcare employee or prevent potential conflict.

For example, healthcare employment contracts should outline expected hours of service to be performed each week. Healthcare employers usually will state a minimum number of hours required to be performed each week in order to meet the base pay requirement. Physicians may wish to add a maximum number of hours and/or negotiate for additional compensation should they exceed the maximum number of hours in a week.

Similarly, on-call coverage requirements should be outlined in the healthcare employment contract. Physician employment contracts typically state that on-call coverage is equitably divided between physicians. Physicians may wish to negotiate for additional compensation should their on-call exceed a certain number of days.

Physician employment contracts should also outline the physician’s duties. This should include not only expectations regarding treatment of patients, but also any responsibilities regarding administrative duties, including record keeping, training expectations, and supervision of staff. Outlining any responsibilities requiring supervision of staff is particularly important when working with healthcare employees that the state requires to be supervised by a licensed physician. Both physicians and healthcare employers need a clear understanding of who is responsible for supervising these employees.

Compliance

The government uses Stark Law, Anti-Kickback, and False Claims laws to ensure compliance with government regulations, HCPCS, and CPT coding systems. All healthcare employment contracts must be reviewed to ensure Stark and Anti-Kickback compliance. Special attention needs to be paid to potential False Claims violations. Frankly, the devil is in the details.

How Chapman Law Group Can Help

We at Chapman Law Group are most often retained to help physicians understand their proposed healthcare employment contract and to review the agreement for potential problems that may lead to future litigation. However, the real value in our services is helping physicians negotiate more favorable terms, including compensation.

Many people find negotiating with potential healthcare employers to be intimidating or stressful, or they believe that healthcare employment offers are not negotiable. For some clients, we negotiate with the healthcare employer on their behalf, while others retain us to help them with negotiations between the healthcare employer and themselves. In both cases, our goal is to help medical professionals obtain the best healthcare employment terms possible.

We also offer simple healthcare employment contract reviews for a fixed fee. This includes review of the employment contract and a meeting with the client (in-office, via telephone, or video conference) to discuss potential areas of concern; ensure that the client understands their responsibilities under the contract; and answer any questions that the client may have.

Whether you are looking for assistance in understanding your healthcare employment contract, need assistance negotiating a more favorable contract, or need representation in a contract dispute, our attorneys would be honored to help.

Our four national offices are in Detroit, Michigan; Miami and Sarasota, Florida; and Los Angeles/Southern California. Contact us today and find out how we can put our experience to work for you.

REMINDER: The attorneys at Chapman Law Group DO NOT represent licensed health care professionals for standard employment law matters such as retaliation/wrongful discharge, workplace harassment, Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), employment discrimination, and wage/hour disputes. If your case involves any of these, you will need to contact a different attorney or law firm whose focus is solely on employment.

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