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Why You Should Have a Lawyer Review Your Employment Agreement


Employment agreements, or a contract, is a written document that details many aspects of a physician working for a group. Here are the reasons why you should have a lawyer look over this agreement before signing one.

Signing your first contract out of residency or fellowship can be an exciting time. However, it's best to have a lawyer look over the agreement to realize what this means for both you and the employer. It's important to know your rights, what the expectations are, and have everything that's important to you spelled out to ensure that you are signing an agreement you're happy with. Here are some reasons why you should have a lawyer review your contract:

1. You need someone representing your best interests. A lawyer representing the group either wrote or was consulted in the creation of this document

· It stands to reason that whoever writes the legal terms will in some way make it fair enough for the contract to be willing to be signed by the physician but still slanted slightly in their favor. Think to yourself, why would this company write a contract that gives the employee more advantages than the person writing it? It’s always good to have someone who represents your best interests to look over the contract, so get your own lawyer. This also applies for pre-nuptial agreements, real estate transactions, and divorces just to name a few situations.

2. Know what the job entails

· The contract should spell out how many days you are required to work and how many shifts are day vs. night. Also, knowing when you might be on call is also important, because if it's not written in the contract you may find yourself on call much more frequently than you wanted or expected.

3. Non-compete agreements

· In some states these are not valid; however, in most states it's still legal to have a non-compete agreement. Know if you have one and legally if it is a valid agreement. The agreement must usually be something reasonable such as a small radius around the area of practice and not 200 miles. Knowing your non-compete will help when you decide to leave the job as this may temporarily limit where you can practice

4. Insurance

· Have it spelled out who covers insurance while you are an employee and after you leave. Who pays for tail insurance, medical, and dental insurance?

5. How can you be let go or fired

· No one goes into a job expecting to be let go but it's important for them to detail the terms of how they can terminate the agreement you have signed. There are terms for cause and without cause. For cause is usually when the employee has some sort of misconduct against the company policy or has in some way had a breach in the contract. Without cause is exactly what it sounds like, the company can fire you without reason that would fit under the 'for cause' umbrella. Some states refer to the lack of reason as termination at will. Know how you can be let go and get the contract terminated early, and obviously avoid any activity that would lead to this outcome.

6. Have the legal terms explained in simple terms

· These employment agreements can sometimes be filled with so much legal jargon that it is really difficult to even understand what the sentence means in laymen terms. Even if the lawyer and you decide not to edit the contract, at minimum the lawyer should break the contract down and explain it in every day terms that are easy to understand. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about what something means

7. Is it spelled out if, how, and what it takes to become a partner

· All the hard work and hours put in for the group is a way to prove that you provide a benefit to the company and that you can work well together. After all, it's likely that you have student loans to repay. At some point, many groups will then have a period where employees can then apply to be a partner in the group and be eligible for profit sharing. Know what it takes to become a partner, or if it's after a certain number of years or RVUs - it should be explained when you could apply to become a partner. Some will also include what the current buy in is; others will leave this vague as the buy in can vary from year to year.

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Victor J. Dzau, MD, gives expert advice
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