Avoid costly litigation: ten steps to implementing lawful hiring practices.Pain Physician. 2004 Jan; 7(1):161-8.PP
A malpractice claim or suit can have a devastating effect on a physician's practice and personal life. What is often overlooked is that an employment-related suit or EEOC charge also can extract a heavy toll, personally, professionally, and financially. The number of employment-related suits and claims has risen dramatically in the last few years. According to recent enforcement and litigation statistics released by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) (1), the total discrimination charges filed by individuals against their employers increased last year to 80,840--the highest level since the mid-1990's. According to the EEOC data, in 2001, employers paid $248 million in connection with charges of discrimination filed with the EEOC by job applicants, employees, and former employees. Employers paid an additional $47 million to the EEOC in connection with lawsuits filed against employers by the EEOC (2). This does not include the millions of dollars employers were forced to pay in settlements, judgments, costs, and attorney's fees incurred in connection with employment-related lawsuits filed in state and federal courts during the same period of time. Employment-related litigation is on the rise, and the healthcare industry is not immune. Physicians as employers can be a target for a wide range of employment-related claims and suits, such as breach of contract, invasion of privacy, sex, race, age, religious and age discrimination, and negligent hiring, just to name a few. The number of jury verdicts rendered against employers is increasing and the verdict awards are often staggering. In addition, defending these suits can be as expensive as defending a complicated malpractice suit. Even worse, employment discrimination suits and charges are generally not covered by malpractice, D & O, or general liability insurance policies, leaving the physician to cope with the financial burden of judgments, settlements, attorney's fees and litigation costs. Most employment-related disputes that lead to costly litigation would never have arisen if the employer had implemented more effective employment practices. Hiring mistakes in particular cause many costly legal battles. This article identifies legal issues that precipitate litigation and suggests ten steps physicians can take to implement lawful hiring practices that will reduce the risk of costly employment suits while improving office efficiency, morale, and productivity. NOTE: This article is intended as an overview of lawful hiring strategies, and is not a substitute for legal advice from experienced employment counsel. Applicable laws vary from state to state and appropriate procedures may depend on specific factual situations. This article is not, and should not be construed as, legal advice.