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Employment Malpractice

  • Author: Kathy Barany

    Malpractice is defined as professional wrongdoing that results in injury or damage or a wrongful act that the "actor" had no right to do.  We most closely associate malpractice with the medical world; however, you should know that it applies to the world of employment also.  Employment is defined as anything having to do with employees and could include their benefits, wages, and how they are managed. 

    According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, the medical misadventures that most commonly result in malpractice suits for family physicians are errors in diagnosis for certain conditions.  They also say that full documentation can demonstrate that a physician did the right thing.

    If we pay such rapt attention to preventing medical malpractice, why don’t we pay attention to employment matters?  It is probably because being a physician, or other medical professional, is revered as being the expert and it takes years of education to get to that level. 

    Anyone can do the human resources/employment stuff, right?  Anybody can manage people or keep records, can’t they?  Wrong, but you can take steps to insure yourself against wage and hour law, human rights, and other fines.  These steps include proper documentation of employment matters. 

    But why should you?  Because not only is it the “right thing” to do, it can save you big bucks by reducing, and in some cases, eliminating your liability for penalties and fines.  And in many cases it is simple to implement employment and recordkeeping systems that will help you run your business better (and yes, a medical practice is a business). 

    For example, there is a law in New York State that requires employers to give new employees, and current employees specific notices regarding their wages.  If you “forget” to give them the required notices or you don’t give all the information required on the notice, not only can the Department of Labor fine you, the employee can also file a claim against you and receive up to $100 for each day that you haven’t given them the notice AND, if you don’t pay the fine within 90 days, you get charged with an automatic penalty of 15% of the amount you owe.  Worst case scenario?  You, the employer, can receive jail time for failure to pay wages that the department of labor deems you owe.  Best case scenario?  You have had the foresight to have an employment check-up and diagnostic review and have taken corrective action based on the results. 

    By the way, you should know that any businesses that are fined by either the New York State or Federal labor department will have a description of the infraction and the amount(s) of the fine posted on-line for the public to see.  Recent posts included that NYS collected almost $50,000 from Long Island Emergency Services; the Federal DOL collected over $12,000 from Unity Dental Group in Rochester.  

    Remember, all it takes is one disgruntled employee to open up a can of worms.  Oh wait, the Department of Labor also does random audits, so it can happen to any business even if you treat your employees like a “family” and you think they would never cause trouble.  Don't kid yourself; get in shape with regard to your employment practices and policies.