DOES THE PANDEMIC CHANGE YOUR DENTIST, OPTOMETRIST, OR MEDICAL CONTRACT TERMS?
Does the Pandemic Change Your Dentist, Optometrist, or Medical Contract Terms?
In the past few weeks, I have had the opportunity to review employment contracts of various medical professionals including dentists and an optometrist. The questions that have been asked have been very contract specific and of course what applies to one medical professional may not apply to others, because each contract is unique in nature.
Chain practices appear to be fighting for their financial survival during these COVID-19 times. From what I have observed in the situations I have dealt with, they are often using the pandemic as an excuse to essentially void their contracts. Their leadership seems to state that we can’t financially handle the pandemic and they seek to alter the terms of their medical providers. There are several likely consequences to these potential changes:
The Practice May Owe You Additional Money For Your Work- The practice may be in violation of the contract and owe money to the doctor who it is now compensating differently than it should under the contract;
The Practice May Have Affected A Termination of the Contract- Contracts in the medical field often have strict notice provisions. By changing the terms of employment. without notice, the medical provider may have inadvertently terminated its contract with the medical provider;
a.) If the Contract is Terminated by the Action of the Provider, Its Notice Provision is Also Terminated- A constant question I have been getting is what effect does non-payment of contractually owed compensation have on notice provisions in contracts. To the extent that a practice shreds the compensation provisions of your contract, it is possible (but not certain) that the notice provisions that doctors hate have also been inadvertently shredded
b.) The Non-Compete Survives Termination of the Contract- Your non-compete survives termination of the contract, but the ticker may arguably start sooner. So for example, if you work in a practice where you are receiving half of your normal contractual daily rate, it can be argued that your contract was terminated on the date you received notice that your compensation was changed. If that date was April 15 and your non-compete is a one-year non-compete, it would arguably only be effective until April 15 of the next year, even though you may still be working for the practice as of June 15.
This blog is intended to demonstrate some of the issues that may arise in the context of employment during the pandemic. It is not a SUBSTITUTE for the customized advice of a lawyer regarding your particular contract provisions. EVERY CONTRACT IS DIFFERENT and can naturally lead to different implications when interpreted in light of the pandemic.