Terminating a Medical Professional In Your Employ
April 21, 2021
Terminating a Medical Professional In Your Employ
Are Medical Professionals Different Than Other Employees?
What if your business is a hospital, clinic, or another type of company that employs doctors, nurses, or other medical professionals, and things haven’t worked out?
You’ve done your due diligence and checked professional licenses and references, but now you’re concerned that the medical professional is engaging in behavior that may cause liability for your company. Or maybe, despite feedback and warnings, the doctor continues to be arrogant in his dealings with other company employees.
Maybe your nurse’s attendance isn’t acceptable. Maybe you just need to reduce costs and want to rely on non-physician clinicians instead of the doctors you currently employ. What should you do?
In most cases, terminating a doctor, nurse, or another medical professional in your employ is no different than firing an accountant or an executive assistant. But employers of medical professionals often tend to be reluctant to dismiss them. Sometimes they are concerned about meritless lawsuits because these individuals may be of high worth and able to finance protracted litigation.
Employers may also be concerned about damage to their company’s reputation if the discharged medical professional is prominent and respected within the community and has a wide network of business contacts and friends. And since there is generally a trusted relationship between doctors and nurses and their patients, an employer may be reluctant to be the cause of the severing of this relationship.
These are justified concerns, but they should not override an employer’s considered, legitimate decision that termination of a medical professional is the best cause of action.
How to Avoid a Lawsuit
Assuming the medical professional has no employment contract governing termination, and there is no evidence of discrimination or retaliation by the employer, following the steps below can provide a framework to mitigate against legal repercussions.
– Carefully review your company’s employee handbook to ensure you are following company policies. Most employee handbooks establish clear termination procedures.
– If poor performance is the issue, ensure that there is detailed documentation of performance concerns. Records should be specific and include the issue, the date, and notes about the deficiencies.
– Calculate any wages that will be due for work already performed. In Arizona, wages may include sick time, vacation time, commissions, bonuses, or other types of compensation. For involuntary terminations, Arizona law requires that any wages due be paid within seven business days or the next regular payday, whichever comes first.
– Be respectful and honest with the employee. Avoid offering reasons that are inaccurate or untrue. If you do not have any intention of rehiring the employee, don’t suggest it. If performance was not the issue, consider offering a letter of reference or financial assistance toward outplacement.
– Consider a severance agreement. There may be situations where it makes sense to offer an employee a financial package in exchange for his or her written agreement not to raise claims or allegations against the employer. This is often true for highly compensated employees like doctors.
– Provide a termination letter. This is required by law in Arizona, as well as being a good business practice. Set out the terms of the separation, including whether for cause or as part of a layoff, and other relevant terms.
– Notify relevant insurance carriers that the medical professional is being separated from your company, and discuss and document how insurance payments and claims for services performed by the separated employee will be handled.
Be mindful that when you terminate a medical professional from your company, there will likely be sensitivities of other individuals and entities including coworkers, patients, and state medical licensing boards. Make sure you have a plan to provide continuity of care to patients and an effective communications strategy to put all required people and entities on notice of the medical professional’s separation from your company.
Contact Counxel Legal Firm
Do you need help with a decision to terminate a medical professional in your employ? A call to Counxel Legal Firm can help prevent expensive employment mistakes.
This article is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice for your specific situation. Use of and access to this article does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and Counxel Legal Firm. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 480-536-6122 to request specific information for your situation.
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