Like other new employees, physicians that enter into new employment contracts should hope for positive outcomes and good working relationships. All parties involved in the contract have certain obligations, and if these are not met, a breach of contract can result. It is essential for physicians to understand their contracts, as details can be misread or misinterpreted.
Reasons for Breach of Contract
Common reasons for breach of contract include non-competes, termination notices, and compensation. Noncompete clauses permit doctors to practice within a stated distance or geographic coverage from the hospital once they leave. These vary and specify that the doctor cannot work at any medical offices that are associated with that organization.
Termination agreements also differ; some require doctors to give notice within very specific time frames. Compensation should also be clearly understood, since most practices pay base salaries and bonuses on productivity. Additional causes for breach of contract include failing to repay promissory notes and misrepresentation of board certification.
Proceed with Caution
Many physicians and employers want to pursue legal action immediately, but this can lead to long-term repercussions that take years to resolve. A physician should not dive head-first into litigation, since it can hurt everyone involved; oftentimes, disputes are based on misunderstandings that can be worked out. It is better to remain objective and settle on a professional solution.
Common steps for resolving contract disputes include staying calm, reviewing the contract, talking things over, and putting concerns in writing. Physicians that show anger to employers can make their emotions the focus of the issue. Looking over the contract carefully can reveal items that were missed or misinterpreted and speaking to the right person that can help is also productive. Writing a letter that addresses the topic from a non-judgmental perspective can ensure that the physician is attempting to right the situation, and an attorney’s guidance can be helpful here. If a lawsuit is the only way to go, the physician should consider all of the ramifications, including cost, time, and their reputation.
Damages and Defenses
Physicians involved in a breach of contract may be ordered to pay monetary damages to cover the practice’s financial losses. They can also be required to perform the duties spelled out in the contract. Before this happens, the medical practice must minimize the damages to a reasonable extent.
There are several defenses that physicians may use when accused of a contract breach; one is misunderstandings, which includes one or both parties being mistaken if the terms are unclear, there are mathematical errors, or simple typos. Undue influence, such as when a physician is taken advantage of or induced to sign a contract under false pretenses, is another type of defense.
A physician contract can also be deemed void if part of it is illegal or unconscionable, such as violating anti-kickback laws or the corporate practice of medicine prohibitions. Other defenses include violating public policy and frustration of purpose.
Philadelphia Physician Lawyers at Sidney L. Gold & Associates, P.C. Help Physicians Facing Breach of Contract Issues
If you are facing an employment contract issue, the Philadelphia physician lawyers at Sidney L. Gold & Associates, P.C. are experienced in all matters pertaining to physician employment law and will fight to defend your rights. Call us at 215-569-1999 or complete an online form for a free consultation. Located in Philadelphia, we represent physicians throughout Wilkes-Barre, Scranton, Bucks County, Chester County, Delaware County, and Montgomery County.