Negotiating as a Group
The old adage about there being strength in numbers is true in contract negotiations. “You may have more leverage if you band together with others,” said Hursh. “Generally, there’s a department full of physicians under contract, and if an employer loses one, especially during down times, it isn’t as big of a deal as having their entire otolaryngology staff head for the door.”
Explore This IssueApril 2021
That may be easier said than done, however. There are personal concerns that could make some of your colleagues unwilling to risk a few months of unemployment to get a better deal, such as having children in school or trying to pay off student loans.
Mayer suggests that physician groups may have some ability to negotiate certain compromises, especially when those compromises are non-monetary in nature. If you’re with an employer that allows you to become a shareholder or partner, ask for a shorter time period before you qualify or use some percentage of your losses for the buy-in when you’re eligible. Because clinical traffic may be lower, your employer might be amenable to lowering your work hours to meet the cut in pay.
Stick It Out
Hursh stresses that even if you think your contract has been breached, you shouldn’t just walk out the door. It’s important that you work through the notice period required in your agreement—otherwise, you could be liable for monetary damages for your own breach of contract. At best, this would further complicate matters and probably prolong and make more expensive any legal action you might want to take. In a worst-case scenario, you could be held liable for employer expenses to replace you, such as paying for a locum tenens position.
When you take a new position, your last employer will probably be contacted as part of credentialing, and anything less than a full endorsement could be considered a red flag. This might result in a longer than usual credentialing period, a loss of income, or even a withdrawal of the offer.
You may have more leverage if you band together with others. Generally, there’s a department full of physicians under contract, and if an employer loses one, it isn’t as big of a deal as having their entire otolaryngology staff head for the door. —Dennis Hursh, JD
Other possible downsides could include your employer sending a less-than-glowing notification of your leave-taking to your patients and refusing to pay accrued vacation time, accrued bonuses, and other benefits. There have been instances when employers have refused to pay tail malpractice coverage to a physician leaving a practice, even when required to do so by the (breached) contract.
“It’s always my recommendation that a physician stick out the required notice period,” said Hursh. “It’s almost always better to leave on the best terms possible, both professionally and personally.”