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Written by the Legal Staff   

 Legal Services Overview

 

A traveler has a contract with an agency to work at a healthcare facility for 13 weeks. Simple, right? Not really! Besides the terms of the contract with the agency, there is at least one more indirect party to the contract, the hospital.

The hospital may not abide by the terms of your contract and there may be other issues ranging from safety to scheduling to scope of practice. The laws of three states may apply, the state you are working in, the state your agency is located in, and your state of residence. Various regulatory bodies can weigh in ranging from OSHA to a nursing board. The contract can be poorly worded, and even illegally worded requiring interpretation by a lawyer, mediator or court. 

Contracts can and do terminate abruptly for a variety of reason leaving the traveler in the lurch without regard to who is at fault. Consider a worst case scenario: the hospital terminates a contract after only three weeks and the agency not only withholds your last paycheck but also reverses your prior direct deposit paycheck; you owe penalties of $10 an hour for all uncompleted hours and your agency is threatening legal action and credit reporting; and you are given 48 hours to leave your provided deluxe housing and have no money in the bank or new job to go to.

Seems far fetched? Unfortunately similar incidents happen every year to good travelers. Termination and conflict can be lonely places to be in and we are here to be your advocate. Knock on wood of course, the vast majority of assignments complete successfully to one degree or another. The Association legal services exist to reduce the probability of issues for our members and to intervene on a member’s behalf when appropriate. We do that in a number of ways:

  • Informational articles in depth describing how to find a good agency, a good hospital assignment, and what a good contract consists of and how to modify bad contracts. This serves to minimize problems. Currently we have two excellent contract articles and are actively working on other direct legal content.
  • We have Association driven initiatives underway to get agencies to adopt contracts that are fair to all parties involved, the traveler, the agency, and the hospital. One such initiative is the model contract we are developing. We expect this will have a major positive impact on the travel industry.
  • Interactive forums to discuss legal matters with experts. Regular columns and articles will be added dealing with every common legal issue a traveler may have. There will be emergency advice articles detailing exactly how to deal with situations such as the example above.
  • And when all else fails, we will proceed to actual intervention on your behalf. The Association counsel can write letters to agencies to help resolve issues that cannot be resolved by less dramatic means. Even if a member is at fault for a termination (for example), there are still actions that an agency often takes that are inappropriate.

These services are available to every full member of the Association and are covered by your annual dues. As such, you can consider this portion of your membership to be legal insurance, assisting you with matters directly related to the business of traveling. The larger part of legal services will be preventative, educational, and proactive.

As part of our mission statement and culture, we are working towards improving conditions in the travel industry. While our focus is on the individual traveler, the bigger picture will benefit the entire industry. We depend on our partners the agencies and recruiters for our assignments, and with the hospitals we practice at to provide the conditions necessary for excellent healthcare delivery. The Association exists to nurture an environment that allows all our partners and indeed ourselves to perform at our highest potential. As such, we will not be litigious except as a last resort. Even the necessity of drafting letters to agencies or hospitals should be a rare event. We are our member advocate and will act as one. However, the Association does not exist to drive agencies or hospitals out of business. Our role is and should be primarily proactive, for our members, and for the entire industry.

Association legal services are just beginning and will progress rapidly, perhaps in unforeseen directions. Content, structure, and interventions will all develop in due time. These are exciting times for the Association!

 

A note about member benefits:

  • Some elements of members' legal benefits are effectively legal insurance.  Clearly, we must limit immediate access for members who join for the sole purpose of obtaining legal counsel for a “pre-existing” legal problem. The proposed waiting period is 30 days. This limitation is analogous to health insurance: no one would carry health insurance if they could wait until they get sick before they purchase it. We want to encourage joining our association to learn and grow and prevent issues, and not wait until a serious issue occurs.

Questions, concerns, constructive comments? Please feel free to post on our forum linked below.

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