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Archive ORX Session Previews 2020

Handle Workplace Legal Issues Like a Pro

Making human resource decisions can be a minefield for surgical administrators, who often have only a surface understanding of employment law. Casey Duhart, BS, M.Ed, JD, an associate attorney at Waller Lansden Dortch & Davis in Nashville, Tenn., will highlight the legal issues you’re likely to face while hiring, firing, promoting or disciplining employees. Ms. Duhart’s presentation will provide the tools you need to make thorough and well-planned staffing decisions to foster a constructive work environment that results in improved patient care.

What do administrators need to know when making personnel decisions?
They need a basic working knowledge of all aspects of employment law such as Title VII, which prohibits discrimination based on religion, race, gender, sexual orientation, national origin and skin color. They should fully understand their policies and procedures for how employees should report workplace complaints, the steps taken to conduct investigations of those complaints and the best way to communicate their outcomes.

What hot topics in employment law impact surgical settings?
Discrimination and harassment are always at the forefront, but during COVID-19 we’re seeing a growing number of complaints and cases related to new working conditions. Some healthcare professionals have claimed they were forced to work in unsafe conditions when employers didn’t properly sanitize the workplace. Whistleblower or wrongful discharge cases have stemmed from some of these cases in which employees felt retaliated against. Workers with disabilities have also alleged they were denied leave after their work-from-home requests were turned down. I also expect to see cases in which employees claim they’re not getting paid for completing health screenings before they clock in for work.

Casey Duhart, BS, M.Ed, JD
Casey Duhart, BS, M.Ed, JD
  • Earned her JD cum laude from the University of Tennessee College of Law
  • Former Editor-in-Chief of the Tennessee Law Review
  • Received the Susan B. Anthony Award for academic achievement and a commitment to enhancing the legal rights of women

What’s at stake if an administrator makes a bad call on staffing-related issues?
Employers are responsible for making sure employees’ rights are protected. They must apply, interpret and execute policies based on the specific situations their workers face. As a result, managers are responsible for making sure their policies and procedures adhere to employment laws. If administrators know and understand basic legal concepts, they’ll be equipped to treat employees fairly. By knowing what rights their workers have, administrators will not retaliate when they exercise them.

What can facility leaders do if they need support before making an important decision?
As they say, there's strength in numbers. They should discuss the issue at hand with other seasoned administrators. If they have access to in-house or outside counsel, they can also reach out to those resources. Facility administrators should always keep accurate and up-to-date documentation about every personnel decision they make. Documenting why decisions were made provides written support at a later date if they're challenged in a grievance or in court. OSM

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