As a physician, the last thing on your mind is contract termination. However, no field is free from downsizing. Physicians that have had their contracts terminated either due to company insolvency or problems with their performance nonetheless have a few legal steps to follow. Surprisingly, getting terminated as a physician is a lot different than losing any other type of job. Whereas many people in other fields are able to get a recommendation letter for a new position or just move on, physicians have a few extra steps to take before they can make a clean break.
Top 4 Legal Mistakes That Physicians Must Avoid
We have compiled some of the biggest legal mistakes physicians make post-termination, so you can avoid them.
Not Reading the Fine Print
Termination can be unsettling for both the physician and the employer. The biggest mistake many physicians make legally the following termination is not reading the fine print of their contracts. Following termination, a physician has both obligations and rights that are governed by the contract signed upon hire. In some cases, being terminated and transitioning to another place of work is also governed by state and federal healthcare regulatory laws and regulations. By not staying abreast of what’s contained within the contract, it is easy to fall into legal trouble post-termination.
Ignoring Contractual Rights and Obligations
Physicians, like most people, will turn their attention toward their future following a termination. This may be as simple as finding a new job or as drastic as moving to another city. However, ignoring contractual rights and obligations is one of the most common legal mistakes physicians make following a termination. In many cases, physicians are due certain benefits following their termination. This can be as simple as transitioning their health insurance and retirement plan to cashing out their bonus compensation. In some cases, physicians are required to secure their own “tail” insurance coverage during their departure. Of course, there are non-compete, non-solicitation, and nondisclosure clauses to consider as well.
Waiting Too Long to Consult a Lawyer
When someone wants to open a business, typically they will consult a lawyer to ensure they are following the law within their state. The same is true for physicians. Employment and termination contracts can often be difficult to navigate, and consulting a lawyer prior to or during termination can prevent a world of legal issues. There are many duties, obligations, and rights that physicians may not fully grasp following termination which can lead to liabilities and other legal complications down the line. Certain rights within the employee contract expire after a certain time period, also, there are some obligations that may not be clear. Waiting too long to speak with a lawyer can result in a forfeiture of those rights and lead to contractual violations.
Improper Handling of Patient Records
Most physicians are very careful with patient records. Following a termination, proper handling of the transition of those records is often overlooked. There are both state and federal regulations that must be followed in the letter. Also, most employment contracts have medical record ownership provisions. Too often physicians will retain files that should have been left behind, or there is a failure to properly inventory, transfer, and duplicate records which can result in record loss. State and federal laws have set time that records must be maintained, termination doesn’t circumvent these mandates.
Avoid Common Legal Pitfalls With Proper Post-termination Planning
In order to prevent legal complications following termination, it is important to keep these common mistakes in mind. Upon termination, it is important to seek the help of a legal professional trained in physician contracts. This will ensure that both employer and physician are able to smoothly transition following a termination.
I am a CFP® (Certified Financial Planner).
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