PINSKY, SMITH, FAYETTE & KENNEDY, LLP

PROTECTING WORKING PEOPLE & THEIR FAMILIES

MCKAY TOWER
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Grand Rapids  Michigan  49503-2818
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Spectrum Health Medical Group Forces Physicians to Sign Restrictive “Contract Addendum” Under Duress

Posted on 5/1/2020

Under great time pressure and duress, and claiming it is necessary because of the COVID-19 pandemic, SHMG is requiring some 1,000+ doctors to sign amended contracts, by today, May 1, that will put restrictions on their future practice, should they leave SHMG, and will give SHMG complete and unlimited control of their work hours and schedules. Doctors who don't sign the new agreement by today's deadline have been told they will suffer a 25% pay cut, possibly worse.

We are compelled to bring to light an unconscionable event happening in our community. Apparently, Spectrum Health Medical Group is attempting to force all of its physicians to sign a so-called “Contract Addendum” by today, Friday, May 1. SHMG is claiming that this is necessary because of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic. SHMG is requiring its doctors—believed to be well over 1,000 professionals—to sign amended contracts containing anti-competitive restrictions on their future practice of medicine by submitting to a non-compete agreement, and to give complete and unlimited control of their physicians' hours to administration, under great time pressure and duress.

When doctors have inquired about more reasonable terms, SHMG has communicated a blanket refusal to negotiate. Whatever reason SHMG is forcing these terms, it is not because of the crisis. In our view, this is Spectrum Health Medical Group attempting to take advantage of its doctors during a pandemic.  The doctors who do not sign the new agreement by the deadline have been told that they will suffer a 25% pay cut, and possibly worse. While the non-compete restriction excludes people that Spectrum Health decides are fired “without cause,” that is totally inadequate to protect physicians who are forced to “agree” to this.

These hardworking folks are among the most heroic essential workers of our community, caring for our sick in this frightening time of crisis or standing ready to do so.  They recognize that belt-tightening may be needed in the short term for the financial stability of the hospitals. However, there is at least a reasonable conversation that can be had about the terms proposed.  Many doctors have clearly communicated to administration they are willing to take a pay cut under the circumstances. They have told SHMG they are also willing to discuss issues beyond the pay cut, but SHMG refuses to negotiate. The 5% pay cut tucked into this gunpoint offer makes it clear that this move is not really about money. And it is not about COVID. It is about control.

Using the virus to justify that these actions as “necessary” would be laughable if it were not offensive and unfair. It is the act of a top-down, top-heavy “Goliath” using a pandemic as a smokescreen to give it unprecedented control, to the detriment of the community and the free market. Further, these actions are causing undue stress and angst for the affected doctors and their families who should not have been put in this position at this time. This is disgraceful.

Thank you doctors for your service. We recognize that many of you have already risked your own health and that of your families. While you are fighting for the health and the lives of so many in our community, you should not have to deal with these issues that have the potential of seriously damaging your livelihoods for the foreseeable future.

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