The Veterinarian's Employment Package - Legal 101
I. CONSIDERATIONS BEFORE ACCEPTING YOUR FIRST JOB
1. Quality of life.
2. Where do you want to live?
3. Family responsibilities.
1. Small animal, large animal, mixed, specialty or emergency practice.
2. Solo or multi-doctor practice.
3. National chains (e.g., Vetsmart, VCA, etc.).
4. Hospital facility.
a. Is the reception area cluttered?
b. Is the overall hospital neat, clean and odor free?
c. Does the hospital and staff project a professional image?
d. Will you look forward to going to work at the hospital everyday?
5. State of the art medical equipment or outdated equipment held together by rubber bands and paper clips.
1. What are your 3 and 5 year plans?
2. Associate, relief veterinarian or owner.
II. THE INTERVIEW
A. Prepare resume highlighting your specific professional interests and long term goals.
B. Ask general questions related to the veterinary practice and specific questions related to your goals.
1. Owner's membership affiliations.
2. Owner's continuing education.
3. Owner's plans to expand existing veterinary services (e.g., dentistry).
4. Revolving door for doctors and staff?
C. Does owner have the time, patience and interest to train you?
D. What are the owner's expectations?
1. Work schedule.
2. Develop management skills.
3. Future equity ownership.
E. Job Entitlements.
1. Compensation, work schedule and benefits should be addressed and memorialized in writing if an offer of employment is extended to you.
F. Request a hospital tour and meet staff members.
G. Is the job opportunity a good fit?
III. NEGOTIATING THE EMPLOYMENT AGREEMENT
A. Employee vs. independent contractor classification.
1. What's the difference?
B. Term of Employment.
1. Usually 1 year and then automatically reviewed for successive 1 year terms, unless terminated.
1. Fixed salary -- varies with size and type of practice as well as geographical location.
2. Per diem daily rate per shift worked.
3. Percentage of production compensation -- varies with size and type of practice as well as geographical location.
4. Performance bonus.
D. Work schedule.
1. Health (medical and dental), disability, life and malpractice insurance coverage.
3. Continuing education allowance and additional paid days off.
4. Professional membership fees, dues and licenses.
5. Uniform allowance.
6. Ability to moonlight outside practice.
7. Book royalties and honorariums.
8. Participation in retirement plan.
9. Maternity leave.
F. Termination events.
1. With cause.
2. Without cause.
G. Covenant not to compete.
1. General Rule: NOT enforceable in California.
a. Any contract which operates to restrain an employee from engaging in a lawful profession, trade or business is void.
b. California courts have consistently held that employees have the unfettered right to compete against a former employer.
a. Sale of goodwill of a business.
b. Shareholder sells all of his or her shares of stock in corporation.
c. Partner sells his or her entire partnership interest in a partnership.
d. Employer's trade secrets (e.g., computerized client list).
e. Solicitation of employer's clients.
H. Equity ownership.
1. Will employer entertain the thought?
2. Agree to agree may be the only concession employer is willing to make.
3. Structuring the equity buy-in.
a. Outright purchase requires careful cash flow analysis, especially in light of potentially heavy student loan obligations.
b. Sweat-equity is preferred approach, but will require some creativity and artful legal handiwork.
IV. SELECTING AN ATTORNEY
A. How do you choose an attorney?
1. Referrals, references and reputation.
B. Does the attorney have sufficient experience in handling employment and business related matters for veterinarians?
C. When should the attorney enter the negotiating process?
D. Each party should have separate counsel.
E. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!
F. Don't be penny wise and pound foolish - competent advisors are worth their weight in gold.