LAMMICO presents a third article in our four-part series on termination and separation of employment for the benefit of medical practices without a formal Human Resources Department. Throughout this series, author Joanne P. Rinardo highlights best practices in separation of employment. In this third part, she explains how to address performance issues with an employee.
Suzie has been working for you for several months and certain issues have come up regarding her continuous mistakes. Determine whether the mistakes are due to lack of training or lack of understanding of what is expected of her. Discuss her errors in a non-judgmental way by asking her what she needs to be successful. If it is a training issue, and you are pleased with the rest of her job performance, try additional training. If she cannot grasp the basics of her job, you might need to replace her. This is especially true if her errors could create liability for your practice.
We will discuss issues with terminating an employee in the next edition of The LINK, but use this opportunity to understand how you misjudged Suzie’s abilities during the application and interview process.
Complaints from Others
Suzie’s job performance is fine, but you are getting complaints from other staff and/or patients that she is rude, disrespectful, or uncaring in her dealings with patients. How a patient believes he or she has been treated by you or your staff can influence whether that patient will pursue litigation if an issue arises with his/her treatment. As soon as you get a complaint, speak with Suzie about the particulars. If complaints continue, or you observe Suzie being less than professional in her interactions, it may be advisable to terminate her employment.
Suzie seems to be doing a good job - when she is there. After a few months, Suzie has begun to come to work 15 minutes late several times a week, and/or is taking extended lunches. After one or two instances, you need to review with her the time her work day starts. Undoubtedly, Suzie will explain that her lateness is for a particular reason and she will improve. Nonetheless, record the conversation that she has been reminded of her work schedule in a memorandum, have her sign it, and then place it in her personnel file.
If Suzie informs you that her occasional tardiness (or excessive absences) is due to a medical reason, and you have more than 15 employees, she may be eligible for an Americans with Disabilities (“ADA”) accommodation. Consult with HR or your attorney for further advice.
Stealing time: This can include inflated hours or using company time for an outside job. Let’s assume that Suzie is inflating the hours she actually worked. Did you convey to Suzie the importance of accurately recording her time and that any extended lunches or leaving early must always be approved in advance? Do other employees engage in the same behavior? If so, be careful not to single out one employee. A simple discussion might resolve the issue, but memorialize in a memo the conversation and that any future violations may result in her termination. Have her sign the memo for her personnel file.
Stealing supplies: If an employee takes supplies for personal use, the value of the item and the frequency it happens should be taken into account. For example, taking some envelopes once or twice should result in verbal counseling. If the item is so valuable (for example, a laptop) that it would never be appropriate to take it home without permission, consider termination.
Stealing from co-workers and/or patients: This could range from stealing lunches from the employee lounge to money from a wallet. If proven, anything more egregious than taking something inconsequential should be dealt with swiftly. An employee who steals an item of value should be terminated. Also, the police should be contacted and a report made for any insurance claims. This will also assist you in defeating a claim for unemployment pay.
When you terminate an employee for stealing, make sure that you get all keys from him/her and disable all the terminated party's passwords. If the theft was significant, consider having your locks changed.
If you learn that an employee has taken a prescription pad, forged your signature, or allowed someone else to forge your signature, for prescriptions, that employee must be immediately terminated, and the police should be notified. Likewise, if an employee calls in a prescription for illegal purposes without your knowledge, using your number, that employee should be terminated.
Coming Next – Terminating an Employee