Over the years, our firm has represented both medical groups and their physicians in Florida and Alabama. The issues that come up in working with medical groups and doctors really aren’t all that different than what arises in other businesses. But there are some unique situations that warrant ensuring that your law firm has the needed experience in dealing with issues that arise in the healthcare environment.
One of the most common situations our law firm encounters in working with medical group practices and physicians is the drafting and negotiating of employment agreements. While not required, employment agreements are fairly common in highly skilled job settings, including medical professionals (including but not limited to: physicians, physical therapists, mental health providers, surgeons, and other clinical practitioners). Employment agreements for medical professionals involve unique issues and special attention. For instance, properly addressing compensation guidelines for medical providers ensures clarity of production goals, bonuses, and how those goals are structured. Changing guidelines and measuring sticks in healthcare can affect these agreements.
Another very important issue for medical providers is understanding and structuring non-compete agreements. Generally speaking, a non-compete agreement prevents an employee from leaving a business and going to work for a competitor. For many years, non-compete agreements were not favored by the courts. They remain disfavored by the American Medical Association. But large hospitals and medical practices have come to appreciate the ability to limit competition from their providers who might otherwise depart and set up shop at another facility. Non-compete agreements have become increasingly common in medical settings with the ever increasing move toward the medical business model. In more ways than one, gone are the days of the small town local medical practice. From the physician standpoint, it is important to have a non-compete agreement be fair. If the agreement is too narrow, it can be virtually impossible for the medical provider to leave a practice and continue in the medical field without geographically locating. That can be a real problem when a medical provider has a family, is rooted in a community, or simply doesn’t want to pack up and move every time they change jobs. Our firm routinely works with physicians to ensure that their non-compete agreements are fair. From the medical group standpoint, it is important to ensure that the non-compete is reasonable and in accord with the statute and case law. An overly broad non-compete, or poorly drafted non-compete, can be ineffective, poor for morale, and most importantly – can create legal exposure for the medical practice.
The parting of ways between medical practices and providers is also a common point in time where our firm is contacted. Physicians occasionally need assistance in determining whether their separation is “for cause” or not “for cause,” which may trigger certain rights and responsibilities under an employment agreement. There are also considerations regarding what information will be conveyed to subsequent employers who might call for references. These are just a couple of the issues that routinely come up in medical severance situations. If you need assistance determining your rights, or your practice’s rights, we urge you to reach out to our team. Ryan Barnett can be reached at 850-434-5395, or at email@example.com.