Hi, I’m attorney Renee Osipov with Chelle Law in Scottsdale, Arizona. We draft employment agreements, policies, and client letters for veterinarians within their practice. Suppose you’re watching this video. Then, you’re likely a veterinarian practice that has decided to close. The best way to communicate this information to your clients would be via letter. It’s essential to give your clients significant time to find alternative veterinary services for their pets. The letter may include the reason for the closure: retirement, illness, death, et cetera. And then the last date that they can obtain services from your practice. You’ll also want to encourage them to find alternate veterinary services for their pet. Then how to get records from veterinary services they received from you in the past? Which can be directly through your office. Or you can include a release form within the letter itself.
And then lastly, you may want to include forwarding contact information for veterinarians at your practice. But again, each case is unique, so you may not want to do that. It all depends on your circumstances. Please go to our website for more information on this type of letter and process. It’s Chellelaw.com, C H E L L E.com. Our contact information is also on there. We would be happy to schedule a consultation with you. It is to address any unique needs within your veterinary practice.
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Veterinary Professional Contract Benefits | Veterinary Benefit Agreement
Veterinarians are in high demand. People want to do everything within their power to care for their pets. The skills that a veterinarian brings to the table are also highly prized. The supply of veterinarians is somewhat lacking. That is versus the overall demand in the market at this time. That means employers must look at ways to sweeten the deal. That is to get as many vets in their doors.
Why Employers Require Contract Agreements for Veterinarians
Many jobs in any industry require potential employees to sign a contract. That lays out the terms of employment and the benefits of coming to work at a specific facility. It’s a strategy as a means of encouraging people to accept a specific job offer that they might not have otherwise. When the benefits are on the table, it’s easier for people to see why they work for a specific employer they’ve considered.
Veterinarians should sign a contract of employment before they can begin their work. After all, the work veterinarians do is so delicate and sensitive that no aspect of it can be left up to chance. The employer needs to know beyond the shadow of a doubt. What are they getting when they offer employment to a veterinarian?
The plus side for incoming vets is seeing some of the benefits they’ll receive. They are on paper in a way that clarifies what they should expect.
Benefits of Veterinarian Contracts
There are many upsides to signing a veterinarian contract. Not least is that it can provide much-needed stability to the veterinarian.
Many veterinarian contracts are due for 12 months or longer. Thus, veterinarians can feel confident that they’ll get employed at a specific facility. That’s for at least a year if they don’t do anything egregious that would nullify the contract.
We also want to explore some additional upsides to veterinarian contracts. That is to clarify why these documents are so important to so many people.
Professional Liability Insurance
No matter how talented someone is at their job, there’s always a risk that something could go wrong. Veterinary Practice News explains why to encourage vets to purchase protection that’ll keep them and their practice safe:
As claims become more common and damages rise, defending against malpractice claims becomes a more expensive and necessary concern for veterinary practices. Veterinarians commonly purchase professional liability (malpractice) insurance to guard against the expense of defending against such claims.
Suppose an employer can add professional liability insurance as a benefit to signing the contract. In that case, this is all upside for the veterinarian. It means they may not have to pay for this insurance out of their pocket. That is not unless they want supplemental coverage beyond what the employer provides.
Clients are often very particular about how their pets are taken care of. They may feel they have a claim against you if something goes wrong with their pet’s care. All vets considering new employment should speak with a veterinary contract lawyer. About reviewing the paperwork, they have been asked to sign to ensure. It includes extensive liability insurance protections.
Everyone must think about their financial future as they are still actively working. Preparing for the fact that you won’t be able to practice as you do now someday. It’s a wise practice simply because it’s the reality of the situation. It would help if you prepared for the day when you are past the age where you can work. And need to rely on the savings accumulated throughout your working life.
A 401(k) plan for veterinarians should be automatic in any contract they expect to sign. It’s to say that any veterinarian thinks about signing up for a job with a given employer. He should recognize that the employer needs to offer a 401(k) plan to get considered.
PTO and Sick Days
Veterinarians considering accepting a new job may want to consider the allotted personal time off (PTO) and sick days. The reason? Because they must have the opportunity to establish some work/life balance in their existence.
A burnout crisis is sweeping through the practice as the number of clients continues to grow. Many vets must practice far more hours under far more challenging conditions than they normally would. Given all of this, it’s clear that vets need to catch some break. They’re fine to recover from the onslaught that is their job right now.
When looking over a contract, veterinarians should see how their time off breaks down into different categories, such as:
- Sick days
- Vacation days
- Personal time off (PTO)
- Flex time
Employers’ definitions vary for how they look at the time provided to their employees to take care of what they need. It’s important to understand those definitions. That’s before signing an employment or independent contractor agreement.
Discounted or Free Services
It would be unusual for a veterinarian not to have a pet (or two, or three!) of their own. Thus, it’s a reasonable assumption that the vet may receive special discounts or even free services from their employer. They may not want to practice on their pet for understandable reasons. Still, they may have the opportunity to receive veterinary care from a co-worker who can help them out. Their employer should discount this service as part of the terms of their employment.
It may seem like a small thing. But it makes a big difference in busy veterinarians’ lives with multiple pets they need to take care of. Getting a little break on those services can be the cherry on top.
Is a 2-Year Non-Compete for Veterinarians | Veterinary Practice
You’ll have signed an employment contract agreement if you’re a veterinary employee. And in that employment contract agreement, it’ll contain restrictive covenants within your practice. And restrictive covenants are things you can’t do in your practice either during or after the contract gets terminated. Typical restrictive covenants in a veterinary practice employment contract include:
- A non-disparagement clause.
- A non-solicitation agreement.
- Confidentiality provisions.
- A non-compete
A non-compete essentially prohibits the vet from operating for a period within a specific geographic radius of their workplace. In the contract, let’s say you practice as a general vet. It’ll say you can’t practice as a general veterinarian for one year within 15 miles of your primary practice location.
What the Veterinarian Employee Noncompete Agreements Says
Let’s talk about some sneaky things the employer tries to do in a non-compete. First, vets can do multiple things. They can do emergency medicine. They could do urgent care, and they could do general vet issues. You want to ensure that the specialty written into the contracts is what you’re doing for that employer. If you’re doing emergency medicine, you don’t want them prohibiting you from being a general vet after the contract terminates. You want as many options as possible when the contract ends, so you don’t have to move. Prohibiting things that you didn’t even do for that employer doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. So, you want to ensure that it doesn’t say you can’t practice veterinary medicine. It needs to be specific to what you were doing for that employer.
For some specialists, say you’re a radiologist, there’s going to be no way around that. But it needs to state what you’re explicitly doing for that employer, nothing more. Regarding time, most non-competes for vet’s practice are usually between one and two years. Suppose you have a non-compete for three or five years. Then, that is probably not enforceable and completely unreasonable. Somewhere between one to two years is the ideal range. One year would be better than two. But it’s not uncommon to see both of those lengths in the contract. So, is two years too long for a non-compete? Ideally, you would want one, but two years, I think, could be considered reasonable in some states.
Geographic Restriction for Veterinary Practice Employment
Let’s discuss geographic restriction. Suppose you’re working in two locations for 5 to 15 miles. That’s a decent range. And these corporate-owned veterinary practices continue to gobble up these veterinarian-owned animal care practices. With that in mind, you must ensure that the geographic restriction only attaches to your workplaces. Let’s say you’re in a big city and a business-owned vet practice owns ten clinics. Suppose you have a 10-mile non-compete from 10 clinics. Then, that could knock you out of a city. It’s more reasonable if it’s just 10 miles from where you worked.
It might not be very pleasant to go outside that radius for however long non-compete lasts. However, you’ll at least have other opportunities to practice. Suppose you’re with a huge business-owned practice. In that case, you must ensure that the non-compete only applies to your primary practice locations. No more than two. Only one or two at most. Some contracts don’t just do a radius but also counties. You can’t practice in this or any contiguous counties. Any counties that touch your county would be unreasonable. Now, it’s going to depend upon the setting. Suppose you’re in an urban environment. Then, 10 miles could knock out hundreds of opportunities.
If you’re in a rural community, there may be no other opportunities within 10 miles of your clinic. Consider that. The larger the city, the more opportunities. The smaller the radius, the more reasonable. Why does it matter? Suppose you grew up in a town, and your kids attend school there. Your family has deep ties to the community. The last thing you’d want is to move out. Maybe it’s just impossible. It’s imperative to focus on the geographic limitation and how many places it attaches to in that scenario. And then also, how long it is.
Negotiation With the Employer about Non-Compete in the Agreement
You’d want to aim for one year rather than two. That way, you have the shortest inconvenience if you must practice outside of the restriction for that one year. Now, how do you negotiate employee non-compete agreements? It would help if you asked for what you want. If they come to you and offer two years and 50 miles from your primary practice location, that’s likely unenforceable. Undoubtedly unreasonable. Say you want a one-year non-compete with a 10-mile restriction. From the two places, I generate most of my charges. Some big corporate-vet practices may say oh, and we can’t change the non-compete. They can change it. They don’t want to.
You have to decide what you’ll do if they say take it or leave it. For some people, it’s the most important thing when negotiating contracts. For others, it doesn’t matter at all. Maybe you move to the community for a job but don’t plan to stay there after. Then you want to focus on negotiating more essential things. And don’t bother mentioning the non-compete. It depends upon the vet, where they’re at in life, and whether they have ties to the community. To determine the amount of capital they want to put into negotiating the terms of the non-compete. There are states where non-competes are wholly unenforceable for providers. There’s only a handful of them.
So, you’re likely in a state where non-competes are enforceable. I get comments like, hey, I talked to a colleague. They said non-competes are completely unenforceable everywhere. For vets, that’s not true. They’re, in most states, if they’re reasonable. Whether something is reasonable or not varies on the viewer. But I would consider never signing a contract agreement. That is, if expecting something not to be enforceable and always trying to negotiate better terms.
What Should Be in a Veterinarian Leaving the Practice Letter
At Chelle Law, we draft:
- Employment agreements
- Client letters for veterinarians within their practice
If you’re reading this article, multiple veterinarians are likely within your practice. And one either decided to retire or leave the geographical area. The best way to communicate this information to your clients is via letter, probably 30 days’ notice before this change.
Writing the Letter
In the letter, you’ll want to explain and notify the clients of the change. And reassure them of the continuity of care within your veterinary clinic. You can also let them know they can obtain veterinary records for their pet upon request. They can even include a veterinary record consent form. And then, you’ll also want a brief apology and assure them that there’ll be continuity of care for their pets. In some situations, it may be essential to let the clients know the contact information regarding the veterinarian that leaves. But again, that’s optional and depends on each situation.
We know that each situation is unique. Please visit our website at Chelle Law, C H E L L E. law.com if you would like further information. Our contact information is also on there. We would be happy to set up a consultation with you to discuss the unique needs of your veterinary practice or clinic. Thank you.
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