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Pennsylvania Employment Law Blog

Negotiating healthcare employment contracts

Receiving a job offer is good news for a health care professional who is seeking employment. But, signing on the bottom line of unfair or unacceptable employment contracts for medical professionals can lead to dissatisfaction or reduce their professional growth. An effective negotiation strategy may prevent this.

Applicants should begin negotiations with a clear understanding of what they are seeking and what is minimally acceptable for job satisfaction. Both parties should exercise creativity and flexibility during negotiations. They should seek a realistic agreement that meets both parties' needs and fairly consider suggestions and modifications. The most favorable time for negotiations is the time after the employer made a job offer. But, an applicant's behavior and comments during negotiations will be long remembered afterward.

Prepare for non-compete or non-disclosure agreements

When considering a job offer, applicants should consider what could happen if they leave that job. Non-competition and non-disclosure agreements are being used with more frequency in employment contracts and severance agreements, especially in technology-oriented professions.

Employers use these agreements to help assure that their former employees do not compete against them or share knowledge gained from that employer. A non-compete agreement may be used to prevent employees from seeking better opportunities and keeping them in a job that does not offer financial or professional advancement. A non-compete agreement prevents an employee from competing with their former employer for a certain time within a certain geographic area. These restrictions must be reasonable.

Typical employment contract mistakes

Studying and becoming licensed as a health practitioner is a difficult process. Some of its advantages, however, may be diminished by making these typical mistakes when entering employment contracts for medical professionals.

First, practitioners may not consider long-term personal and career goals. For example, job applicants may enter a contract that takes them away from engaging in their preferred practice activities or receiving outside revenue from activities such as public speaking or writing. A non-compete clause may restrict them from practicing in a location they choose to live and work.

Know your rights as an employee

As an employee, you should receive fair treatment from your employer. You are not simply at the mercy of your boss. But you may be unclear about your rights. 

Some questions you may have about your employment rights include the following:

  • What constitutes illegal discrimination?
  • How do I know if I am being harassed?
  • Am I entitled to overtime pay?

Seeking the best severance package

Losing a job may terminate a worker's only source of income and important benefits, such as heath care. Some workers, especially those in senior positions, may be offered a severance package with continued payment of salary for a time, stock options, job-search assistance and other benefits. When employment contracts may not contain the terms of these packages, employers may offer severance agreements which contain employee benefits in return for the surrender of important rights.

The employer, for example, may seek a confidentiality agreement or non-competition agreement that prevents a worker from being employed by a competitor or within a certain geographic radius for a certain time. Other terms may stop an employee from taking legal action for wrongful termination or saying anything negative about their former employer.

Non-compete agreements take away rights

American workers often relinquish rights and face disadvantages negotiating the terms of their new jobs. Employment contracts containing non-compete clauses are being used not only for high-tech or executive jobs, but in work at every level of skill, education and wages.

Recent surveys estimate that 16% to 18%of all workers in this country are governed by a non-competition agreement. Approximately 45% of physicians enter a non-compete. 12% of workers earning less than $20,000 and 15% in the $20,000 to $40,000 range are governed by non-compete clauses.

Employment contract negotiations

An employment contract can govern a medical practitioner's career and professional life for many years. There are numerous tips for negotiating employment contracts for medical professionals. First, the offer of employment and potential employer should be carefully considered. All positive and negative aspects of the offer and the employer are important. One positive or negative matter should not disqualify the employer or seal the deal.

Practitioners, especially those first coming out of residence, should not be hesitant or self-conscience about negotiations or discussing issues. Interviewers expect applicants to ask questions, which will also reflect that they fully researched the employer and the position. Also, it should not be assumed that potential employers will withdraw job offers if an applicant engages in negotiations. Their efforts in considering an applicant and the offer usually reflect their hope that the applicant will accept the job offer. An applicant should be wary of an organization that is unwilling to negotiate or deal with questions.

Potential problems with non-disclosure agreements

Non-disclosure agreements have appeared in news reports on political scandals and sexual misconduct. NDA agreements are also being used with more frequency in employment contracts and may pose problems for employees. A NDA, or confidentiality agreement, is a legally-binding contract that prohibits the signer from disclosing sensitive information. Substantial financial penalties, as high as $25,000 to $750,000, may be imposed for each breach of these contracts.

These agreements were first used to protect a company's financial interest in safeguarding confidential proprietary information, such as new technical innovations or intellectual property. Around 30 years ago, however, NDAs became more common in employment and settlement contracts. Employers used them to impose a secrecy atmosphere.

What qualifies as leave under FMLA?

When a personal situation arises that is outside your control, your entire world may come to a screeching halt. No matter what the circumstances, sometimes life makes it impossible to go about your business as usual.

When something occurs in your personal life, do you know what your employer can do to help? The federal government created the Federal Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to help employees out when certain personal situations arise. Does your issue fit the criteria?

Non-compete clauses can be problematic

Non-compete clauses are being used more in employment agreements. Employment contracts for medical professionals containing these terms, also known as restrictive covenants, may been damaging to patients and pose legal problems for medical practices.

Non-competition clauses are intended to stop healthcare practitioners from taking patients if they work with a competing practice or start one of their own. A survey of 2,000 primary care doctors in five states showed that approximately 45 percent of practitioners were restricted by a non-competition clause.