These days, every physician that is not self-employed should have a well-drafted separation agreement with their employer. Not having one in place can set physicians up for unexpected and unpleasant consequences that can be detrimental to their careers. Being proactive by having one prepared before any problems occur is in the best interests of any doctor.
In many cases, personality conflicts, stress, and other job-related circumstances can lead to rough separations and unexpected backlashes for doctors. Without an appropriate physician separation agreement in place, the doctor could end up facing difficulties finding new employment once they have left the company. Not all employment agreements are written in the practitioner’s best interests, so this extra ammunition can help.
A Case in Point
In a ruling last November, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals confirmed a trial court decision where a physician had sued her employer for breaching a separation agreement and lost. She worked at the Mayo Clinic with staff privileges there. She allegedly had struggles dealing with her manager and was eventually put on unpaid leave. This physician hired a lawyer, who helped her with a separation agreement to use for her resignation. This agreement was supposed to protect the doctor by preventing the employer from making negative statements about her.
This specific agreement included a letter of reference to be used for any potential employees that might wish to hire the physician. It specified that the Mayo Clinic would not make any derogatory statements in the letter or otherwise. Yet, when she applied for a position with a health center three years later, she encountered a roadblock. The health center sent credentialing forms to the Mayo Clinic, and the former manager gave her some below-average scores. The employment offer was eventually withdrawn.
The physician presumed that the rating led to her not getting the offer or staff privileges from the prospective employer. The federal district court concluded, however, that the credentialing form used did not count as an employment reference. It also ruled that the form was not the reason why she was not offered the job. The Seventh Circuit confirmed the decision, stating that the form should not be interpreted as a request for a reference.
Key Points for Physician Agreements
A carefully constructed employment agreement is important for physicians. As this recent Mayo Clinic case comes to light, some practitioners may want to consider adding separation agreements to protect themselves. These should include the exact separation date, and any buyout or payment terms. If the physician had staff privileges, a board position, or a management role, this should also be specified. Many physicians are also entitled to reimbursement for outstanding bonuses or expenses, unused vacation days, or severance pay. Future letters of reference should also be part of any discussions pertaining to these agreements.
Philadelphia Physician Lawyers at Sidney L. Gold & Associates, P.C. Understand Physician Separation Agreements
Medical professionals need to protect themselves and their careers, and the Philadelphia physician lawyers at Sidney L. Gold & Associates, P.C. can help. If you are dealing with a difficult employment or separation agreement, call us today at 215-569-1999 or contact us online. Our offices are in Philadelphia, and we represent clients in Bucks County, Chester County, Delaware County, Montgomery County, and throughout New Jersey.