If you own a small dental practice you cannot ignore the possibility of being sued by an employee at some point in time. In fact, it is a rare business that is not sued by an employee if the dental practice has been operating for more than a few years. The United States is a litigious society in general and employers are frequent targets of a wide variety of lawsuits. Some of the more common lawsuits filed by past or present employees include:
As a general rule an employee who is injured in a workplace accident will be covered under Workers’ Compensation insurance. In this case, there is no need for a lawsuit; however, there are a variety of circumstances under which a workplace accident may result in a lawsuit. For example, a dental office may be sued as a third-party in a workplace accident or by a subcontractor who is attempting to claim employee status.
The number of sexual-harassment lawsuits filed against employers has risen dramatically in recent decades. In fact, one out of every four lawsuit filed by an employee is for sexual harassment. For dental practice owners, it is crucial to understand the legal definition of sexual-harassment as well as to take a proactive approach by developing a company policy with regard to sexual-harassment claims and ensuring that all dental employees are aware of the policy.
Discrimination in the workplace is a violation of numerous federal and state laws. At the federal level there are at least 13 different protected classes that could form the basis of a discrimination lawsuit filed against an employer. In addition, as an dental practice employer you need to be familiar with your state’s discrimination laws because many state laws provide additional protected classes above and beyond those which are protected under federal law. Gender, for example, is not a protected class under federal law yet many states have enacted laws that make gender a protected class for purposes of discrimination in the workplace.
A wrongful termination lawsuit alleges that an employee was fired in violation of the terms of an employee contract or that the employee was fired for in an illegal reason such as a retaliatory firing. In many states, employment is considered “at will”. This simply means that an dental practice employer may fire an employee for any reason that is not in violation of state or federal law. In some cases, however, there is a contractual agreement between the employer and employee in the form of an employment agreement. An employee may file a wrongful termination lawsuit if the employee feels that he or she was fired and the firing violated the terms of the employment agreement. A wrongful termination lawsuit based on allegations of a retaliatory firing may claim that the employee was fired because he or she filed a complaint against the employer with OSHA or filed a discrimination complaint against the employer and was fired as a result.