Representing Medical and Mental Health Professionals
Call 612-294-2600 to discuss your case with a knowledgeable lawyer.
Schaefer Halleen is privileged to often represent physicians, licensed counselors and therapists, and other medical or mental health professionals. As a result, the Firm has developed a deep expertise in effectively navigating through the legal issues often faced by medical professionals. From Chief Medical Officers, to Department Chairs, to surgeons, psychiatrists, psychologists, physicians, and executive/administrative leadership at all levels, these clients need counsel fully familiar with the complex legal issues which can directly affect employment in this area.
Experience with Physicians
Physicians subject to peer review and related licensing issues need a lawyer well versed in those processes. Medical staff privileges and licensing are often at issue in peer review. When discrimination, retaliation or antitrust motives taint this process, the tables can be turned on what could otherwise be a career-threatening accusation. An experienced lawyer can go on the offensive in these circumstances, and challenge both the confidentiality and immunities which might otherwise apply to the peer review process. This often results in opportunities to negotiate a reasonable resolution which precludes any license- or privilege- threatening reports, and allows the physician to transition to other opportunities, often with compensation for the improper manipulation of peer review. The lawyers at Schaefer Halleen also know how to ensure that physician contracts contain provisions protecting our physician clients when issues arise, and ensure that any restrictive covenants do not impose too great a burden when a transition needs to occur. Our physician contract-review services protect our clients, and are done with an efficiency that comes with extensive experience.
MD News Articles
- “Ensuring Due Process during Peer Review,” May 2015
- “Peer Review and Discrimination: No Place for Employers to Hide Improper Bias,” April 2015
- “Under the Microscope: A Review of Physicians’ Employment Rights When Complaints Occur,” March 2015
- “Schaefer Halleen LLC: Experienced Counsel for Complex Legal Issues,” February 2015
- “Legal Considerations for Physicians,” December 2014
For more information on MD News, visit their website.
Type of Client: Senior Internal Medicine physician at large Twin Cities Hospital.
Problem: Our client, who was of Asian Indian national origin, was subject to an inappropriate manipulation of the intake/referral system at the Hospital which steered patients asking for his services to other physicians. Significant evidence suggested that this may have been motivated by national origin bias. His complaints about the ongoing manipulation of this system were disregarded without any corrective action taken. He was terminated for dubious productivity reasons as his practice declined as a direct result of this patient referral manipulation.
Our Approach: When the Hospital would not reinstate our client and agree to reasonable compensation terms, we successfully litigated claims in both state and federal court on his behalf.
The Solution: The state court action involved tort claims for interference with existing and potential business relationships, involving the improper “steering” of referrals to other physicians. We proved this improper manipulation by offering the testimony of numerous patients who requested the services of our client, but were steered to other providers. Secured a jury verdict as a result with significant economic loss and emotional distress/damage to reputation compensation to our client. Thereafter, the federal lawsuit for national origin discrimination settled on very favorable terms.
Type of Client: Surgeon at large rural County Hospital
Problem: Physician who our client was hired to “partner with” in surgical practice and who was to retire after two years of this partnership resisted this arrangement, to the point where he actively defamed our clients to staff and patients, refused to support our client’s practice in any manner (and even refused to do “rounds” on our client’s patients, with life-threatening results. Client’s frequent complaints to Hospital administration were ignored and instead the offending physician was supported.
Our Approach: Wrote detailed proposal letter to the Hospital CEO and copied Board Members which presented breach of contract, misrepresentations in inducing client to join Hospital, as well as defamation and the ongoing interference with our client’s treatment of and relationship with existing patients. Followed up with numerous letters describing continuing interference and defamation, as well as retaliation for making initial complaints. Hopsital eventually agreed to early mediation.
The Solution: Mediation, which occurred over two days, resulted in agreed upon resignation, payments amounting to approximately five years of compensation to our client, mutual non-disparagement, and limited waiver of non-compete obligation which allowed our client to promptly accept another lucrative position.
Type of Client: Experienced Pediatrician in large multi-clinic facility who was placed on performance improvement plan due to alleged lack of productivity.
Problem: After years of productive service, Clinic administration had changed and new administration alleged our client was failing to meet productivity standards, as measured by “relative value units” (RVUs) assigned to various patient treatment options.
Our Approach: Presented strong evidence that our client was being disfavored, in contrast to younger pediatricians, in types of patient assigned. Patients likely to generate significant RVUs were directed to younger, more favored physicians. Our client had also raised complaints in the past about the productivity measurement being inconsistent with providing medical treatment with integrity and a focus on preventative medicine, and was also retaliated against.
The Solution: Contract provided for six month severance in the event of involuntary termination without cause. Clinic agreed to substantially increase this (to over one year) in light of claims arising from above facts, and agreed to waive non-competition and non –solicitation to allow client to move to nearby clinic and transport many patients to new provider.
Many of these executives, managers and physician employees have employment contracts, usually for a specified term. It is critically important for these contracts to be very clear, for both sides, on:
- Overall expectations
- How performance is to be measured and evaluated
- When and how a potential termination event can occur
- What benefits are to be provided in this unfortunate circumstance
- What- if any- post-termination restrictive covenants can be enforced
Schaefer Halleen has unparalleled experience in all of these areas, knows the “state of the art” and other generally accepted language for these items, and can thus negotiate very effectively for our clients in the contract formation period. Clarity at the outset of these relationships protects medical professionals, and reduces the risk that difficult disputes will arise during the employment relationship.
Furthermore, there may come a time during the contract term where our clients want to have an “exit strategy” for moving their practice elsewhere, while maximizing the benefits to which they may be entitled under the contract terms and given events at work which have led them to seek a separation. Schaefer Halleen attorneys can analyze complex facts and contract terms and shape just such a strategy for our clients. Moreover, our reputation with large medical employers and the defense bar often leads to prompt and productive settlement discussions in these difficult situations.
Federal and State Laws Affecting Medical Professionals
There are numerous federal and state laws which have an exclusive or significant impact on medical and mental health professionals. Familiarity with these laws is critical when disputes arise, or in avoiding these disputes developing into litigation. To highlight one such law, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is a sweeping federal law protecting, among other things, personal medical information. Alleged HIPAA violations can often be the springboard for employment investigations and sometimes threatened adverse action against our clients. In a similar vein, reporting actual or threatened violations of the privacy required under this law can sometimes provoke a retaliatory response. Familiarity with this law, the authority interpreting it, and the regulatory guidance provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is essential for effectively advocating for our clients when these kinds of issues arise.
The Minnesota Whistleblower Protection Act
The recently amended Minnesota Whistleblower Protection Act, Minn. Stat. §181.932, has numerous provisions directly applicable to the medical and mental health fields. The protection under the Act can provide robust, tort-like damages to our clients when their rights under this statute may have been violated. Our experience, and well-known track record in prosecuting such claims, often leads to very favorable early settlement resolutions for our clients.
Licensure and the Physician-Client Relationship
Understanding the ramifications of both licensure requirements and the unique importance of the physician-patient relationship must be paramount in effectively advocating for our medical industry clients. The former can give rise to defamation and other related claims when false information is provided or threatened to be provided, and the latter can give rise to tortious interference and/or breach of contract or quasi-contract claims when there is a demonstrable interference with this relationship. Schaefer Halleen attorneys have a truly unique expertise, built on years of experience advocating for and advising clients in the medical field, to determine when complex facts may give rise to these kinds of claims and to effectively prosecute these claims, when necessary.
If you are a medical or mental health professional, we would be delighted to deploy our considerable expertise to assist you in whatever employment issue(s) you may face.
Our Services for Medical Professionals:
- Advice in reviewing and editing initial employment contract offers and negotiating with the employer on behalf of our client to secure most favorable and detailed terms possible
- Fashioning an appropriate and achievable “exit strategy” which maximizes benefits available under the contract when seeking to separate during employment
- Evaluating and prosecuting breach of contract, tort, or statutory claims while seeking a favorable early resolution for our client throughout this process
To discuss your case with a knowledgeable lawyer, please call 612-294-2600.
What Our Clients Say
My sister referred me to Schaefer Halleen when I began to experience being “railroaded” out of a position in a large pediatric clinic I had served well and productively in for years, and I’m very grateful to have retained the Firm. The Clinic was represented by one of the largest Firms in the state, and Larry Schaefer stood up to this “defense” in a way that made crystal clear he wasn’t intimidated, and knew more about the legal issues than any other lawyer. As a result, we achieved my g...
Schaefer Halleen was the obvious choice when I was seeking experienced employment counsel to stand up on my behalf to months of interference with my surgical practice and breaches of numerous contract obligations. Larry Schaefer’s aggressive and exhaustive advocacy allowed me to not only get out of this dysfunctional and damaging work environment promptly, but to do so with significant financial security and the damage to my reputation stopped. In mediation, our very experienced mediator d...
Recent Blog Posts
Today is “Equal Pay Day,” according to the National Committee on Pay Equity (NCPE). Since 1996, the NCPE has designated a day every April to recognize the persistent gender-based pay equity gap in our country. The specific day – April 4, 2017 – represents the amount of additional time beyond the wages earned last year […]Read More
Just before Judge Neil Gorsuch’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings recently began, a former student alleged that the nominee had commented in an ethics class that law firms can and should be able to ask prospective female employees about their plans to begin a family. Judge Gorsuch denied the allegations, but the coverage raised an important […]
Doctor Gregory Sherr, a distinguished neurosurgeon represented by Schaefer Halleen, LLC, has brought suit in Federal District Court today against HeathEast Care System, CentraCare Health, and six physicians affiliated with these health care providers. The Complaint alleges ten legal claims, all arising from what Dr. Sherr and his lead counsel, Lawrence P. Schaefer at Schaefer […]
Too sick to go to work. Too in need of a paycheck not to. Millions of Americans face this dilemma. Locally, however, the well-being of workers is improving. The Minneapolis City Council recently unanimously passed an ordinance requiring employers to provide paid sick leave to employees. That means sick time is no longer a nice-to-get benefit […]
By Lawrence P. Schaefer The medical profession is evolving rapidly, with significant recent legislation governing patient privacy (HIPAA) and insurance coverage and practice (The Affordable Care Act), all influencing how physicians and medical health professionals, and their employers, operate on a day-to-day basis. Less Independence The old model of independent practitioners forming clinical practices and offering […]