Interviewing can be a grueling process. After a physician’s curriculum vitae (CV) and cover letter got him or her the interview, a physician’s remarkable performance at the interview may result in favorable feedback from the employer. The employer may be so impressed with the physician that the employer starts talking about a job offer right after the interview. Physicians should not be surprised if the employer turns the table around, and starts selling the physician on the medical practice and why he or she should accept their job offer!
Employers commonly provide job offers to physicians in the form of a cover letter and accompanying contract. The physician should carefully review what the employer offers and determine if he or she is satisfied with its terms. After the contract is more closely scrutinized and negotiated, it becomes time for the contract to be executed. But a physician should wait! Before a contract is signed, a physician should observe the following tips:
- Final Execution Version. A physician should ensure that the version of the contract he or she is requested to sign is in fact the last negotiated version of the contract. What is legally effective is the contract that is signed, not the contract that was supposed to be signed. Physicians can avoid this common error by proof reading the final execution version prior to execution to ascertain it contains the last set of negotiated revisions.
- Fill In All Blanks. The contract should have all blanks completed before it is signed. More than likely the blank relates to a significant term (such as the starting date of employment), so a physician should ensure that these blanks are completed to avoid any future disagreement with the employer over that omitted item.
- Include All Documents Referenced In The Contract. Often, contracts make references to exhibits, schedules, and addenda which are often incorporated into the contract. A physician should ensure that these valuable sections of the contract are completed and attached to the contract itself before execution. Otherwise, there could be disagreement with the employer about what information these exhibits, schedules, and addenda “should” have contained. An example would be an exhibit that lists the office locations of the medical practice where a physician would be required to work.
- Obtain All Documents Referenced In The Contract. Along the same lines, a contract may refer to documents pertaining to employment that are not necessarily attached to the contract. For example, the contract may reference the practice’s employee handbook which the physician is required to read and follow. A physician should request a copy of such handbook for his or her records and so that the physician can also read and understand its requirements prior to execution of the contract.
- Sign Only if You Agree to be Bound. Once a contract is executed by both parties, it becomes a legal document enforceable by the other party. Unless specified otherwise in the contract, the contract is effective immediately upon signing and it is extremely difficult to later prove that the contract is not enforceable. A physician should sign the contract only if he or she is prepared to comply with all of its terms. The physician should assume that every term will be enforceable against him or her.
- Obtain a Final Executed Copy of the Contract. A physician should obtain a copy of the contract signed by all parties prior to his or her first day of work. Draft copies are not legally sufficient. Nor are copies only signed by the physician. A contract must be signed by all parties to the contract in order for it to be enforceable. The Physician Contract Lawyer has seen situations where certain provisions were mysteriously added or deleted from the “final” execution version of the contract years later which led to disagreement between the employer and physician.
By following the above tips, a physician can avoid future disagreement with his or her employer and give the physician peace of mind when commencing new employment. The Physician Contract Lawyer helps physicians to review their contract to ascertain that it is a true and correct copy, is complete, and represents the entire agreement of the parties.