Set policies to address discrimination complaints

Contract Language. By Steven M. Harris, AMNews contributor.

It seems as if every other call I receive these days is from a client telling me about a complaint charging his medical practice with some form of discrimination.

And with that complaint often comes a claim of retaliation — that the employee who felt discriminated against also felt that those in the practice engaged in mistreatment because he or she filed the complaint or spoke up about something wrong in the practice.

One client who successfully fought a discrimination and retaliation complaint then asked how he could minimize the adverse effect of such claims. I advised him that the best strategy is to include an equal employment opportunity provision in the practice’s employee handbook, or to create a stand-alone equal employment opportunity policy. That way, the practice could demonstrate a commitment against discrimination and retaliation. Also, it might allow complaints to be handled internally, rather than involving outsiders.

At the very least, every physician practice group should have an equal employment opportunity provision in its employee handbook. Here is an example:

“[Employer] provides equal opportunity for all employees and applicants for employment and makes all employment decisions without regard to race, religion, color, age, sex, national origin, disability or any other status protected by federal, state or local law.”

Most employers find that the equal employment opportunity provision is not enough and therefore choose to create a policy stressing that the physician practice group prohibits any form of retaliation against any employee for filing, in good faith, a complaint under the equal employment opportunity policy, or for assisting in a complaint investigation.

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