Handle Workplace Legal Issues Like a Pro


Surgical leaders must learn how to appropriately address staffing concerns.

HOSTILE ENVIRONMENT HOSTILE ENVIRONMENT Learning about ways to address bullying is a far better option than assuming it'll never happen at your facility.

Business is booming for attorney Casey Duhart, JD, a healthcare employment law specialist, thanks in large part to managers who have only a basic understanding of employee rights. At Virtual OR Excellence, Ms. Duhart told attendees how to protect their facilities against charges of discrimination, allowing a hostile work environment and sexual harassment. "When you know better, you do better," she said.

Ms. Duhart said some managers don't take harassment complaints seriously — or fail to respond appropriately. "The fact that they tell employees who got slapped on the behind by a co-worker to 'Toughen up, Buttercup,' is why I'm employed," she told attendees. "You can't laugh that off and tell staff members they need thicker skin."

Surgical leaders must investigate all workplace complaints and document each investigation every step of the way, said Ms. Duhart, an associate at the Waller, Lansden Dortch & Davis law firm in Nashville, Tenn.

She suggested every facility have hard copies of an employee handbook on hand, as well as a copy online for employees to access. The handbook should address employees' federal and state rights in the workplace and what they should do if they feel discriminated against or harassed based on their race, age, gender, sexual orientation or disability. Employees should be required to sign a document stating they have access to the handbook, have read and understood it, and know who to contact if they have any questions about its contents.

Surgical facilities should also have an anti-retaliation policy in place so employees feel comfortable coming forward with complaints, as well as knowledge that they won't be disciplined for doing do — even if their original complaint was determined to be unfounded, according to Ms. Duhart.

She said surgical leaders should understand important aspects of the federal Title VII statue, the Americans With Disabilities Act and the Family and Medical Leave Act. She also highlighted the importance of progressive counseling and discipline before a possible termination.

The process by which leaders interact with employees during conflicts is crucial to defending the eventual decision on the status of their employment, according to Ms. Duhart. "Facilities get into trouble with issues surrounding the way leaders handle conflicts with staff," she said.

Virtual OR Excellence runs through Nov. 20 and is free to Outpatient Surgery subscribers and AORN members. Sign up here for access to the conference's online learning and networking opportunities.

Adam Taylor

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