Get it in writing
One associate was employed for 25 years, the other for about five. However, after a partnership attempt failed, both associates left the practice. But that's not the problem; associates leave practices all the time. The problem is this: The associates were asked to reimburse the practice for expenses the practice had paid for them: health insurance, annual dues, and so on. This led to a closer look at what the practice had been picking up and what the associates had been paying for. The owner says the two were paid a percentage of their production, with employment costs subtracted from their compensation. The associates say they never knew this was happening. Once they found out, they demanded to be reimbursed for all the expenses that had been deducted to date without their knowledge. The owner refused and said they should have known about it all along.
I'm left observing a disastrous lawsuit, but the rest of you can learn from this trio's mistakes. No one should have to go through what these poor people are experiencing.
A napkin does not a contract make
The first mistake these doctors made was failing to create a written employment contract. In fact, one individual said both parties went out to dinner one night and wrote the basic compensation terms on a napkin. Of course, that napkin is now nowhere to be found.
You can obtain boilerplate agreements from a number of sources, including my book The Art of Veterinary Practice Management (Advanstar Publications, 1999), Dr. Jim Wilson's Law and Ethics of the Veterinary Profession (Priority Press, 2002), or http://legalzoom.com/. Work through the details, and have an employment lawyer review the agreement. For those of you who've been using an employment agreement for a while, it might be time to review the contract and make sure it's still legal and valid.