Because our healthcare law firm often handles employment-related disputes and litigation (for employers and employees alike), we follow developing trends in employment litigation. Employment discrimination lawsuits continue to make headlines in the healthcare industry. Between 2018 and 2019, numerous allegations regarding doctors, nurses, and administrative staff have resulted in litigation challenging existing employment practices of large network hospitals and small practices. For managers and owners of physician practices or small businesses, employment concerns should be regularly discussed with legal counsel.
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Over the last two years, a variety of claims have been brought forward by employees against their employers. The stories range from allegations of discrimination on the basis of sex, age, or race. For example, on April 26, 2019, employees of Mount Sinai Health System (Mount Sinai Health) filed a lawsuit in federal court alleging age and sex discrimination against female senior leaders of the health system. The lawsuit discussed practices that occurred under Dr. Prabhjot Singh’s management. Before the lawsuit, Dr. Singh served as the chair of the Department of Health System Design and Global Health. According to the lawsuit, numerous female employees were fired or forced to resign before being replaced by younger male employees. Furthermore, the lawsuit cites instances of Dr. Singh’s “screaming” and other aggressive behavior towards women on staff at Mount Sinai Health. On July 3, 2019, it was reported that Dr. Singh resigned from his position of leadership.
Hospital Corporation of America (HCA) was also involved in costly litigation this year after being required to defend a lawsuit after an employee claimed that sex discrimination occurred at a Kansas clinic. In May, the Kansas City Star reported that a former medical assistant of the clinic filed a lawsuit, alleging that a physician within the practice made sexual advances towards her in the office. In the lawsuit, the plaintiff contends that, after her work environment became intolerable, the clinic’s human resources department attempted to transfer her to a new office and resulted in her constructive discharge. HCA settled the case.
Another 2019 employment discrimination lawsuit arose in California after a radiologic technologist was allegedly discriminated against after being injured at work. After her hospital employer made a determination that she was unable to perform her job duties and terminated her employment, she sued. A jury awarded her $1.03 million dollars in damages, finding that she was wrongfully terminated. The medical center plans to appeal the verdict, according to a report from the Ventura County Star.
A New Concern for Employers: Social Media
Even when a lawsuit has not been formally filed, social media can be utilized by employees to bring forward questionable employer behavior. In return, the social media attention may result in negativity surrounding a business or practice’s name. For example, last year, a Missouri Health Clinic allegedly denied a prospective employee a job because of her name. Shortly after applying for a job, the woman received a message stating, “Thank you for your interest in careers at Mantality Health. Unfortunately we do not consider candidates that have suggestive ‘ghetto’ names. We wish you the best in your career search.” The clinic claimed that it was hacked after the woman came forward claiming racial discrimination. After the applicant went to social media about the instance, public outcry surrounded the facility. Fortunately, the matter was resolved internally and did not result in litigation. Regardless of the outcome, it is important for employers to know that their ways of internally handling employment or hiring matters can become the topic of conversation on popular social media forums such as Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit. Public conversations about employment disputes can result in a tarnished business reputation that may have a financial outcome that is equivalent to costly litigation. For that reason, it is important to consult legal counsel before an issue arises.
Often, the mistakes resulting in litigation from employment law are avoidable. While it is important for businesses to be cost-conscious, it is beneficial for employers to have their current employee practices screened regularly. Our experienced attorneys can review your existing employment practices to find risks before an issue arises. Our firm has successfully defended healthcare businesses through a wide range of employment law issues, and advises clients on personnel manuals, whistleblower laws, employment agreements, and retaliation and discrimination claims.
Our Georgia and South Carolina-based healthcare law firm advises and represents healthcare companies, medical practices and individual healthcare providers regarding employment matters and disputes. If you have questions about this post, contact us at (404) 685-1662 (Atlanta) or (706) 722-7886 (Augusta), or by email, firstname.lastname@example.org. You may learn more about our law firm by visiting www.hamillittle.com.
**Disclaimer: Thoughts shared here do not constitute legal advice. Please consult with an attorney to discuss your legal issue.