Associate Dentist Employment Agreements: Rights and Responsibilities Regarding Rework

The dental attorneys at Nardone Limited frequently negotiate and prepare associate employment agreements on behalf of our dental practice clients. When negotiating the terms of the employment relationship, it is common for the dental practice and the potential associate dentist to focus on certain key terms, such as the compensation structure, the employment term, fringe benefits, and restrictive covenants. A lot of time is devoted to negotiating those terms and clearly stating each party’s rights and responsibilities in a written employment agreement. While it is certainly advisable to craft clear and concise language in the employment contract addressing each of those terms, other important employment terms are often overlooked or become an afterthought.

One of those often-overlooked terms relates to rework. Rework can be generally defined as any follow-up treatment that is necessary to correct a material defect in the treatment that the employee originally provides, excluding follow-up treatment to correct issues caused by normal wear and tear, decay, accident, or patient misconduct. It is almost certain that a patient will seek corrective treatment at some point during the employment relationship. Thus, it is important to clearly state each party’s rights and responsibilities regarding rework in the employment contract, so that disputes between the dental practice and the associate can be avoided.

Rework During the Employment Term

When a patient calls your office complaining of discomfort with a crown that was recently seated by your associate dentist, there should be no question how the corrective treatment will be handled. That is, the associate’s employment agreement should clearly state who is responsible for performing the rework, and who is responsible for any out-of-pocket expenses relating to the rework, such as lab fees, supplies, and dental assistant compensation. Generally, during the employment term, the associate will be given the opportunity to complete the rework, and the Practice will provide the associate with access to the dental practice office and the appropriate staff, supplies, and equipment for the associate to perform the rework. The employee will receive no additional compensation for the treatment and will typically be responsible for expenses relating to lab fees and appliances.

But, what if the associate cannot complete the rework, or the patient does not want the associate to complete the rework? In either of those scenarios, the employment agreement should allow for the practice to have another doctor within the practice complete the rework, and should specify that the associate is responsible for any compensation the associate received for the original services, along with any expenses related to lab fees and appliances. After all, the other doctor is not going to perform the rework without getting compensated for the work, and the patient is not being charged for the corrective treatment. Thus, it is only fair that the associate must reimburse the practice any compensation that the associate received for the original treatment. The practice can then duly compensate the other doctor performing the rework.

Finally, to the extent it is necessary for the practice to refer the rework outside the practice to another dentist or specialist, the associate should be responsible for any fees charged by the outside dentist or specialist for the treatment.

Rework that Arises Post-Termination of Employment

A well-drafted associate employment agreement will also address any rework that occurs after the employment relationship ends. For instance, what happens if your associate dentist leaves your practice to join a different practice, and then rework arises relating to treatment that was performed by your former associate? In many instances, the employment agreement will permit the practice to perform the rework, and require the associate to reimburse the practice for any compensation the associate received for the original treatment. And, to the extent the practice must refer the rework to an outside dentist or specialist, the associate will reimburse the practice for the fees charged by the outside dentist. In other instances, the practice will not want the hassle of pursuing the former associate for reimbursement, and will simply agree to eat any costs related to the rework. Regardless of how the practice and the associate dentist decide to handle rework after the employment relationship ends, the employment agreement should clearly state each party’s rights and responsibilities. Otherwise, rework could lead to a costly and time-consuming dispute.

Contact Nardone Limited

The dental attorneys at Nardone Limited have vast experience negotiating and drafting associate employment agreements, and can properly advise you regarding dental-specific terms such as rework. If you need guidance regarding an associate employment agreement for your dental practice, contact Nardone Limited.