While you don’t have to have a written employment contract as an associate dentist, it is usually a good idea. An employment contact allows both sides to clearly spell out key employment terms. This can avoid the possibility for misunderstanding in the future, and allows you to know your rights under the contract.
Arizona is an at-will employment state. This means that, if you don’t have a written contract, you can be fired immediately, with or without cause. With an employment agreement in place, you will usually have some notice before your agreement is terminated and you may even be able to negotiate the terms of dismissal, including a severance payment.
Some examples of potential issues that can arise for an associate include: what happens if a malpractice claim is filed against me after I quit? Will my employer’s insurance cover me? If I am paid on collections, can I still get paid after I leave? How much time off will I get for vacation and sick days? Are there any restrictions on my ability to work? An associate agreement can clearly address each of these issues, and more.
The employment agreement should state the basics, such as:
- How you are being paid (production versus collection versus per diem compensation)
- Other benefits you will get on the job (e.g. health insurance, malpractice insurance, retirement contributions, time off, CE reimbursement)
- How the agreement can be terminated, and how much notice is required
- What constitutes “for cause” termination
- The extent of any restrictive covenants, such as non-compete or non-solicitation agreements
- Whether and how you can access patient records following termination of employment, such as if you are getting sued.