Nursing

Ask the expert: Limiting liability when dealing with problem employees

Nurse Leader Insider, March 15, 2010

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This week, Dinah Brothers, RN, JD, discusses how to deal with letting go problem employees.

Q: How can I ensure I will not be brought to court for letting go a problem employee?

A: Confronting problem employees can be very stressful; however, failing to address an employee's inappropriate behavior jeopardizes patient safety, interferes with staff morale, and increases liability for both you and the hospital. Even when you have extensive documentation that an employee is incompetent or endangers patient safety, the decision to terminate an employee carries legal risks. Therefore, to avoid liability in a wrongful termination lawsuit, you must be able to show the court that your decision to terminate the employee was based on legitimate, objective data.

Here is one way to help accomplish this:

Remain consistent and take fair disciplinary actions: You cannot pick and choose which employees to discipline. If you regularly allow some employees to engage in certain behaviors and then fire other employees for the same conduct, you are setting yourself up for a lawsuit. To be honest and fair, first ensure that your employees know the disciplinary policies you enforce on your unit. By approaching employee discipline in an open and consistent manner, your hard-working, competent employees know they won't be fired on a whim.

To read additional ways to help avoid liability in a wrongful termination lawsuit, click here.

Editor’s note: Do you have a question for our experts? E-mail your queries to Editorial Assistant Sarah Kearns at skearns@hcpro.com and see your name in print next week! In the meantime, head over to our Web site and view a growing collection of advice from our experts.



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