Strong EPLI Practices in Your Medical Practice
Craig Skerpac, MBA
Every medical provider must ensure professionalism within their practice. This means hiring qualified, committed employees. However, it also means treating your employees—past, present and future—with respect. If you don’t, you could face allegations of personnel misconduct. Employment Practices Liability Insurance (EPLI) might help the practice recover from such occurrences. Still, it does not eliminate penalties resulting from employer misconduct. How can you avoid employment issues in your practice?
You have a duty to ensure the security of your employees. From hiring to termination, put in place policies and practices that ensure transparency.
Why EPLI Risks Exist
EPLI coverage protects businesses when employees allege misconduct in the course of duties. Such risks might occur before you hire them, while they work there or even when they leave. Allegations of misconduct might include:
- Discrimination in hiring
- Harassment or assault
- Sexual misconduct
- Unfair termination or evaluation
- Invasion of privacy
- Other issues regarding conduct by directors, officers or other employees.
Such allegations can arise in any business, including medical offices. Even if these allegations prove totally unfounded, you can’t ignore them. You also can’t ignore any legal proceedings that result. EPLI protection can cover many settlements, legal fees and other costs associated with fighting allegations or rectifying mistakes.
However, policies will often not cover practices in cases of intentional acts. Officers should thus try to prevent chances of misconduct. Accidents might still happen. Yet, you can still try to prevent these allegations in the first place. By examining hiring, retention and termination practices, you can create a better workplace.
By law, almost every business must follow workers' rights and employee safety laws. Use these as guidelines to set up and implement proper conduct practices. However, remember that you do have leeway to make extra changes to keep employees safe.
Transparency in Hiring
Whether a job candidate winds up working with you is irrelevant. The company’s interaction with prospective hires could raise misconduct allegations. How can you prevent these occurrences?
- Clearly explain the expectations of the position in your job description. Do not mislead employees on the nature of the job, or the required work.
- Federal law prohibits hiring discrimination based on factors like age, race, disability, religion, national origin, sex or pregnancy. If the job requires certain restrictions, you might have to list these in the job description.
- Keep in mind, demographic restrictions can only occur in very rare cases. Generally, the only times restrictions apply is when demographic information would prohibit a hire from performing essential functions of the job beyond the use of reasonable accommodations. Check your local employment law for more information.
Often, interviewees do not have to disclose demographics that may disadvantage their prospects. Likewise, you should not ask about such factors unless a clear reason exists to do so. Asking inappropriate interview questions may lead to allegations of profiling.
Do not extend an offer until you screen all applicants. Do not make promises to potential hires that might give them an unfair advantage.
Creating a Safe Working Environment
People have a right to come to work and feel safe in their job. As their employer, you should do your best to promote this environment.
- All employees should receive notice of proper conduct within the workplace. Most companies provide copies of the employee handbook, which should list these policies. Also provide information on workplace rights, and any non-discrimination protection that exists.
- Stress to employees that the business will not tolerate any improper personal misconduct. If an employee ever alleges misconduct by another party, take such allegations seriously. Establish a process to investigate, settle and report such allegations.
Encourage an environment of mutual respect, understanding and discretion in the workplace. Never be afraid to address improper misconduct by any actor in the practice.
Fairness in Termination
EPLI coverage often can apply to allegations that arise years after an act occurs. In part, that’s because someone might make allegations even after their time with you ends.
When someone’s employment ends, this is as important a time as when it begins. Make sure employees walk away knowing that you followed protocol in all terminations.
- Even if employees leave voluntarily, they can leave happy or dissatisfied. To learn more about the employees’ experiences, many businesses conduct exit interviews. These can help the business put practices in place to create a better place to work. A standardized exit can also guarantee employees receive pay, benefits or other dues.
- If you terminate an employee for any reason, do so professionally. You cannot afford to let emotions or personal preferences influence your decisions. Also judge termination decisions solely on performance attributes. Once again, termination because of factors like age or sex will likely not bode well for the business.
With EPLI coverage, you can protect the practice against allegations you cannot prevent. However, this does not release you from creating a safe working environment. Make sure your office’s employment policies align with workplace conduct laws. Then, talk to your New Jersey insurance agent to learn about how you can maximize the benefits of your coverage.
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