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Employer not offering contract? "Everything is in the offer letter"?

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  • Employer not offering contract? "Everything is in the offer letter"?

    Has anyone seen this? I've been informally exploring outpatient employment opportunities for next year after I graduate fellowship. One "practice" (yet another PE-owned venture expanding into an underserved metro area) informed me that they do not have any contracts, as "[the state in question] is an at-will state". Despite this, they were very forthcoming about benefits which include 401k, health/dental/vision, loan repayment, signing bonus, guaranteed salary indefinitely with annual increases and productivity option past a certain wRVU threshold, CME, malpractice, etc.

    I'm naturally really wary of this. I'm approaching every potentially employed position with the mindset that everyone is trying to screw me. Certainly the contract is there to protect both parties; I imagine that an "offer letter" alone is not adequate to protect me and maintain those benefits. Any counterpoints to this? Others who have seen this kind of offer recently and it worked out (relatively)?

    Proposed compensation is fine, not great. Certainly not high enough that I would be willing to take a significant amount of risk in other areas.

    Not sure how they would react if I requested a contract protecting the above terms, though that is one of my next steps if we keep talking.

  • #2
    There will likely be a statement in the contract about the benefits about them not being guaranteed, however, I would definitely want my compensation structure written down.

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    • #3
      I was given an offer similar to this recently. I turned it down for a few reasons, this being one of them. I didn’t feel very comfortable working without a contact, and they were treating it no differently than me taking a job at Starbucks.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by crashXCI View Post
        One "practice" (yet another PE-owned venture expanding into an underserved metro area) informed me that they do not have any contracts, as "[the state in question] is an at-will state". Despite this, they were very forthcoming about benefits which include 401k, health/dental/vision, loan repayment, signing bonus, guaranteed salary indefinitely with annual increases and productivity option past a certain wRVU threshold, CME, malpractice, etc.
        So your salary and benefits are not written down in a formal contract. What's to keep the PE sharks from unilaterally lowering and/or removing your malpractice, health insurance, and salary?

        The burger flipper at McDonald's gets a written contract for godsakes.

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        • #5
          My contact was something like 10 pages long. I doubt everything can be written in an offer letter.

          red flag

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          • #6
            Move on.

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            • #7
              I always understood that the offer letter was merely the framework for the contract. To this particular situation, not having a contract or specific terms in writing is extremely concerning.

              I'm a big believer in things need to be in writing no matter what the relationship behind the employment. It could be a best friend employing me but I would still want terms in writing...it just keeps everything clean(er) and minimizes any grey areas.

              It's a red flag to me if they're not willing to put things in writing.

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              • #8
                Whaaaaaaaaat???

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                • #9
                  Color me confused. An employment contract is as much (or more) for the empoloyers benefit then yours. Non-competes. Non-solicitations. Grounds for termination. Grounds for repayment of signing bonus. Defining minimum notice. Defining your requirements to them (maintaining licensure, certification, etc etc.). All of these an employer wants in writing, even with at will employment. Whats to keep you from taking the job and then just not showing up on day 1? I am employed "mostly" at will in that I can be terminate without cause with 90 days notice. Many docs are in the same boat. So the only real protection you are losing is the guaranteed notice.

                  Contracts offer you very little protection. See the many docs who had their pay cut during COVID. Sure their salary was specified in the contract. So lowering the salary is breaching it. But because they can terminate you at will or with X amount of notice, you either accept the change or leave. Similarly for your work situation. Say you were promised a 4 day work week and they are making you do 5. You can quit, or file suit for breach of contract. A suit for breach of contract will likely be expensive, take years, and reap little enough gain you would have been better off just quitting. It may offer some protection if they paid you a signing bonus or something to keep them from coming after it i suppose.

                  What I suspect is they are saying they don't have your contract now, you can accept the job if you want and a contract will be signed at some point.

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                  • #10
                    There are upsides to working under the terms of an offer sheet. I currently do. I could walk tomorrow if I wanted to. But for your first job out of training, I would do whatever possible to avoid a PE-owned situation and to have a traditional contract. What do the other docs who work there say about it?

                    PS You can get hosed just as much with a contract as you can without one.

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                    • #11
                      You usually sign an offer letter and details are ironed out in the contract. So this is super weird but if anything is written down, even just bullet points...that basically is the contract for better or worse.

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                      • #12
                        There is no magic, an offer letter becomes a contract as soon as you accept it. Just make sure the stuff you care about gets added to the letter...

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                        • #13
                          Thanks all for the insight. They were very clear that this wasn't a "contract comes later" situation -- literally no other binding document than the offer letter. They did state that the terms of loan repayment (ie treating it as a loan that is forgiven after working there for 3 years) would be included as part of the offer letter. Lots of great thoughts above (esp alluding to the fact that private money can screw you with or without a contract).

                          Good point, Shant. Will definitely be having whatever documents there are reviewed by a contract lawyer, "contract" or not.

                          Will update in here if there are any further developments. I'm fortunate to be in a field in extremely low supply at the moment and want to explore every option I have.

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                          • #14
                            Contracts are only important when there is a dispute, typically when it leads to a desire to separate. At will or not, terms of notice for cause or without cause tend to ruffle feathers. There might be a clause about compliance or following policies and procedures. Read that as extensions of your offer letter at the employers discretion. Who would have thought the policy for notice would be grossly in favor of the PE firm. You definitely need a contract review, likely by an attorney. Yes they will have terms and conditions that are not in the offer letter. Do you get prorated credit on the loan forgiveness (taxable annually) or “upon completion”? If it is important to you, it needs to be in the letter. Hope you never have a contract dispute.

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                            • #15
                              yes. our institution (academics) provides offer letter which outlines salary, etc. Benefits are linked to the university page (which is in the offer letter). We do not have contracts. I believed they have been gone about 10 years now.

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