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How physicians can resolve employment contract disputes

It is not uncommon for a doctor who is employed by a hospital or health care system to become involved in a dispute over the terms of his or her employment agreement. Typical provisions in physician employment contracts that are ripe for differing interpretations include those relating to productivity bonuses, termination requirements, geographic scope of work and noncompete clauses. The first thought of Kansas City doctors who find themselves embroiled in a contract dispute may be to sue for violation of their employee rights. But there is a better approach, legal experts say.

The first step in handling any employment contract dispute is to remain calm. If you let your emotions take control, the focus likely will become your conduct, making it difficult to negotiate a favorable resolution. Next, carefully review the contract documents to make sure you are not misinterpreting what they say. Your attorney can help with this review.

Next, have a face-to-face discussion about your concerns with your supervisor, department head or other appropriate person as may be specified in the agreement. Prior to the meeting, prepare your talking points and gather all pertinent information. Also come prepared with potential solutions to the issue, which could include a contract amendment. If you do not get results following the meeting, the next step is to put your concerns in writing. Again, your attorney may provide assistance in drafting an appropriate letter if you are not comfortable doing it on your own.

If your concerns are not addressed after following these steps, litigation may be a final resort. However, keep in mind that a lawsuit can be time-consuming and expensive. It also will be a matter of public record, which can create other issues. An experienced employee rights attorney can help you weigh the pros and cons of proceeding with a claim and assist you through the process.

Source:, "5 steps for employed physicians to resolve contract disputes," Sue Ter Maat, March 11, 2013

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