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Discipline and Termination Disputes

Representation of Physicians in Employment Disciplinary Action and Termination Disputes

The employment of physicians continues to be a strong trend in the healthcare industry, a trend that presently has no end in sight.  Fortunately, it seems that for most physicians, employment can be a positive and rewarding professional experience. While physician employment typically creates mutually beneficial opportunities for the employer and the employed physician, however, an employment relationship can be one fraught with unique and very significant career risks for physicians due to the control of the relationship that the employer often has.  Many of these risks may not be readily apparent to the average physician, many of whom may prefer autonomy as a highly trained professional charged with legal responsibility to make clinical judgments.

How Our Physician Employment Law Firm Protects Employed Physicians

Our law firm regularly represents and assists physicians with challenging and highly important employment related legal issues, whether at the transactional stage or dispute stage, including the following examples of typical legal engagements:

  • Review, analysis, editing, advice and assistance with physician employment agreements, letters of intent, and buy-in or other partnership related agreements
  • Negotiation, litigation, arbitration and/or mediation of compensation-based physician employment disputes
  • Negotiation, litigation, arbitration and/or mediation of unlawful disciplinary action
  • Negotiation, litigation, arbitration and/or mediation of unlawful termination
  • Negotiation, litigation, arbitration and/or mediation of any employment contract dispute
  • Adverse NPDB reporting and related administrative proceedings and judicial review
  • MEC hearings and other administrative or bylaws-based proceedings
  • Regulatory advice and assistance with regulatory issues, such as self-referral law

The Unique Career and Professional Risks That Attend a Physician’s Acceptance of Employment

No other industry’s professionals bear the same level of unique risks that physicians accept with employment.  For example, if in connection with hospital or medical practice employment involving privileges a quality of care or clinical competence referral is made against the physician and, as a result of the referral, the medical staff leadership undertakes an investigation of the physician’s patient care, the circumstances may create a legal obligation on the part of the employer to report information to the National Practitioner Data Bank (even if the physician contends the underlying allegations are unsupportable).  An NPDB report can considerably and permanently impair the physician’s employment and related professional opportunities to the physician’s substantial financial detriment. The NPDB’s guidebook and related rules respecting reporting obligations and the hospital bylaws dealing with peer review can be highly complex. In any such set of circumstances, the career stakes are high for the physician.

Or, by way of further example, owners of a medical practice or decision makers in a hospital who have soured the relationship with a physician employee might seek to fabricate a “for cause” basis to terminate the physician’s employment to avoid having to provide the extended notice required to terminate the physician’s employment “without cause” under the physician’s employment contract. Apart from the issue of an unfair job loss, the physician’s career can be permanently affected by, for example, having to answer “yes” on future applications and paperwork that attend desired employment, insurance credentialing or hospital privileging, or even State licensure.  In such circumstances, it is often critical to find effective ways to deter the employer from an approach that may put the physician at risk of lasting career harm.

Another risk that attends physician employment that we see manifest in a dispute on a regular basis is that of a compensation dispute.  The opportunity for such disputes is easy to understand where a physician’s compensation is tied to an arcane production-based formula.  For physicians, the nuances and complexities of production-based compensation formulas, particularly those designed to take into account an employer’s desires for particular third-party payor reimbursement, can be nuanced, esoteric, and highly subject to interpretation no matter how well drafted by the employer’s lawyer.  Production-based compensation schemes are often rich with opportunities for dispute and, because of the significant sums of money involved, can lead to formal legal proceedings.

There are numerous other examples of how any form of disciplinary action against a physician can, in addition to the immediate financial and emotional impact of employee discipline or job loss, impair a physician’s career on a long-term or even permanent basis.  For this reason, physicians who learn that they may be or have been the subject of employment-related disciplinary action should carefully consider whether to seek the input and assistance of healthcare law counsel with substantial experience identifying and dealing with such career risks for physicians.

Virtually every day in our Georgia-based business and healthcare law firm, one or more of our attorneys is called upon to advise and advocate for a physician who is impacted by some form of adverse employment action against the physician.  Over the course of years, we have helped hundreds of physicians.

Speak with us Today

Our physician employment attorneys have expertise and experience in handling a variety of physician employment disciplinary and termination matters.  We are glad to speak with you to determine how we can assist you in your employment-related dispute. Our offices are in Atlanta and Augusta, Georgia. Contact us at info@hamillittle.com, or 404-685-1662 (Atlanta) or 706-722-7886 (Augusta) to schedule a confidential consultation.

DISCLAIMER: Any result this law firm or any lawyer of this law firm may achieve on behalf of one client in one matter does not necessarily indicate similar results can be obtained for other clients.