Employment contracts hold significant importance regardless of the industry you’re working in. They outline details about the position you’re interviewing for. Because you’re going to be signing this important document, you must understand its ins and outs. You should clarify anything that is ambiguous or requires further explanation to the employer. This is pivotal because contracts are binding; if you sign something you don’t understand, failure to comply can leave you vulnerable.
Local Laws and Regulations
When it comes to optometry contracts, you need to be familiar with regional and state regulations. They all have their own set of regulations. If it’s proving to be overwhelming, it will serve you well to get in touch with a lawyer who specializes in employment contracts.
Here are some features that are more or less true to all optometry contracts.
Duties and Benefits
This part contains specifics about monetary compensation, job description, and education (both past and continuing).
It’s helpful to both parties to iron out details pertaining to work expectations early on. Signing off on these details is a commitment to uphold your duties and your employer’s expectations in a streamlined fashion.
This is self-explanatory and includes information about workdays. If you are expected to put in some hours over the weekend, the contract should specify it.
Seeing as you’re an optometrist, other specifications regarding your availability in case of emergencies is also listed here.
All your professional responsibilities will be stated here. You may find some to be open-ended, so it’s best to consult with your employer and request clarification. Rest assured, however, that not everything that is vague is a red flag. If you’re feeling apprehensive, you can always approach a lawyer.
Apart from the basics of attending to patients and diagnosing them, it is pivotal to identify cases where ophthalmologists need to be consulted.
If the practice has a telemedicine aspect, even that should be explained here.
Last but not least, everyone should be familiar with HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) and all the requirements that come with it. This is integral because this could lead to compliance issues and should be avoided at all costs.
In the event of malpractice, the contract should specify what to expect. This can be a slippery slope because claims apply only until employees are linked with a certain employer. If you wish to keep them active, you should look into “tail” insurance. This will cover you even after you have switched jobs or retired.
This should specify when you would be receiving your pay each month. It should also highlight whether the payment model follows an hourly rate or a daily rate.
Additionally, some employers offer incentives, and even these are baked into the contract. These need to be explained in detail and leave no room for questions. If they happen to be vague, you might want to revisit them.
Furthermore, the pay can also be tied to individual performance. Just as those working in sales receive commissions for each extra sale they manage to see through, the same concept applies here. The more patients you see in any given month would count towards this.
When you’re employed, you work a considerable number of hours each week. Beyond your official hours, the contract should also mention whether you are eligible for overtime pay or not. This has to do with your exempt/non-exempt status as an employee. To determine where you stand, you should familiarize yourself with state regulations. Better yet, you should consult a lawyer.
This section carries details about paid leaves, personal days, vacations, and sick days. It also includes the finer details regarding insurance, be it dental or health-related. If you have a disability, ask a layer if you qualify for disability insurance.
Classification of Employees
As tempting as it is, employers should not list new employees as independent contractors because this would be an incorrect classification.
They can be labeled contractors only if they rent, own, or lease equipment. You should categorize those people as employees who adhere to official timings, a schedule, don’t practice elsewhere, or own any equipment.
This can be an uncomfortable topic to broach, but it’s important and something for all professionals to do.
For starters, contracts should mention if employees can be laid off without reason. If not, potential causes that serve as non-negotiable grounds should be stated under this section.
Contracts also have specifics about the following:
- Notice period (should the employee quit)
- Grace period offered by the employer (should the employee get fired)
Sometimes, employers are also liable to pay employees a couple weeks’ salary in case they go forward with firing an employee. They do this to save themselves from ex-employee claims.
This is common to all corporate contracts. It essentially holds employees accountable in case they disclose business secrets. Anything deemed confidential by the employee can be listed here. Employees (both former and current) found guilty of transgression will be charged.
There are some employers who wish to go the extra mile and place restrictions on their employees even after they’ve left their practice. These may include:
- Preventing the employee in question from working at a competitor’s practice.
- Keeping an employee from working at a practice located close to their clinic.
- Preventing employees from practicing altogether for a specific number of months or even years.
Different states have varying stances on such restrictions. The onus to know their rights rests on employees.
In the event of a conflict
In case there is a dispute while employed or after termination, it makes sense to deal with unpleasant situations in a civilized way. As a preemptive measure, employers are growing to weave arbitration in contracts.
Employers are averse to involving the court, so this works more in their favor than employees.
A Word of Caution
As a rule, always remember two things:
- Do not sign anything that doesn’t make sense.
- Even if conditions and clauses were discussed orally before you drafted the contract, it’s just as important to read through every detail.
Even bearing the aforementioned in mind, employees should not hesitate to bring a lawyer on board. They have tons of experience when it comes to employment contracts and will be able to guide you best.