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New York and New Jersey Physician Employment Contracts: Top 10 Things for Doctors to Know Before Signing, Part I

above-the-bar-logo-no12.jpgUnderstanding the intricacies of a physician employment agreement can be a daunting task when you’re fresh out of residency or fellowship and looking for your first real job or even when you are changing practices. Unlike many other professions, doctors and other medical professionals who join an established practice typically end up staying there for an extended employment term up to and including retirement. Thus, properly evaluating and negotiating your employment contract can affect how you will be paid and what your compensation will be based upon in subsequent years of your career. In addition, non-compensation issues such as defining and limiting the number of calls should be considered.

If you don’t effectively negotiate your employment agreement and later realize that the job wasn’t what you expected or you are terminated, your employment contract can play a major role in your next career steps. For example, the parameters of your non-compete clause will determine whether you are able to practice in the same geographic area. Before you sign or commit to a medical practice or hospital, you should consult with an experienced lawyer. Our employment lawyers have represented physicians practicing in various specialties including surgery, anesthesia, radiology, and obstetrics-gynecology with privileges at major New York and New Jersey Hospitals including Westchester Medical Center, Hackensack University Medical Center, Nyack Hospital, Mount Sinai Medical Center, New York University (NYU), New York Presbyterian Healthcare System, New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation, and VA Healthcare Systems. Below are some general considerations for doctors and medical professionals to consider:

1) Negotiate. Don’t commit to a verbal offer without having your employment law attorney review the contract and negotiate better terms. Since you may be working with these people, you may feel uncomfortable asking for changes and negotiating better terms. Practices often try to discourage employees from seeking legal advice or counsel and say that the employment contract is non-negotiable but that is generally not the case and some terms usually can be negotiated.

2) Clarify the terms and scope of your employment. Your agreement should confirm whether you will be classified as an employee or an independent contractor. This classification can have significant tax and benefit consequences. For example, independent contractors generally are not eligible for company provided benefits. In addition, you should know if you are traveling to different hospitals and making phone calls during non-working hours, will you deduct your own expenses on your tax returns or will you be reimbursed for your expenses.

3) Medical malpractice insurance premium costs are skyrocketing. You should find out whether the practice will pay for medical malpractice insurance, what level coverage they will provide, and whether they have occurrence or claims based coverage. Occurrence based coverage covers a claim for services rendered during the period in which coverage exists. Claims made coverage pertains to claims while your policy is in effect, but once payment stops, the coverage is stops. This comes into play if you leave or are terminated from the practice and is especially important for physicians who practice a high risk specialty such as surgery or obstetrics-gynecology, where lawsuits may be brought years after you’ve left the practice. Since it is extremely important to have a tail policy, which can cost tens of thousands of dollars, our experienced lawyers can help you negotiate a proper insurance coverage.

If you are considering joining hospital or a physicians practice, our experienced employment lawyers can help you evaluate and negotiate your physician employment contract. Email or call us now at (800) 893-9645.

Part II of this article will be continued in the next Blog.

Thank you for visiting our Blog. This blog provides general information and thoughts about various employment law issues primarily in the New York Tri-State area and occasionally in other areas. You are welcome to read the posts. However, do not construe any content on this blog as legal advice or the creation of an attorney-client relationship. Again, we provide the content only for informational purposes. You should not make decisions based information on our blog since the application of the law depends on the facts and each situation may be different. In addition, the law in most jurisdictions is different and changes constantly and we make no representations that any information on our blog has been updated. The Blog should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from an experienced employment law attorney in your state or jurisdiction.

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