Patient safety is a fundamental consideration in the conduct of every employee. If an associate neglects the expected rules, regulations, and policies, patients lives might be at risk. In the case study, an employer realized that a particular employee was wrongly documenting patients charts. After discovering these errors, the employer warned the employee and instituted a corrective plan for the same. However, the associate did not adhere to the corrective plan, and when the employer realized it, he immediately fired the employee (Aiken, McTeigue, & Lee, 2014). While trying to uphold ethics and observe the law equally, termination has become a challenge to employers since employees have become more aware of their rights. What a proprietor might perceive to be an appropriate way to terminate their employees might attract some costly lawsuits to their firms. This essay will explore whether or not the employee can file a law suit based on his story of termination and perform route cause analysis to determine if any of the parties involved could have acted differently in this particular situation. Furthermore, the paper will try to analyze the need and possibility of additional training sessions for the staff member.
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In the case study, the employee might have some grounds to fight the termination, but the employer can defend his decision to end the collaboration with the employee. The staff member might argue that the employer did not give him a termination notice in advance. Further, the fired employee might insist that he was not given an opportunity to explain the reason for his misconduct and wrong documentation of patients charts. Due process requires that an employee should only be fired on just-cause unlike in states such as Washington where at-will employment is common (FindLaw). However, the company might argue that there were evident grounds for the employees dismissal. Whether it was an at-will or contracted employment arrangement, the employer has a just cause for terminating the employee. Wrongly filing patients charts might put the patients lives in danger. Thus, this was a strong enough reason and justified cause for the termination.
On the lack of a termination notice, the organization might state that the employee had refused to comply with the corrective action plan. Ethics demand that the employer should take the action that best protects the lives of the patients and hence, retaining the employer would have increased the risks to the patients (Vincent, 2011). Furthermore, the employer can argue that there had been a verbal warning on the incompetence of the employee he had failed to follow. The employer can further add that the employee had refused to follow the corrective action plan. It was, therefore, necessary to have the employee suspended to protect the lives of the patients as well as the reputation of the organization. If the employee, therefore, was under at-will employment, then he could not have fought against his termination based on due process as this arrangement allows an employer to fire their stuff at will without offering any explanation (Business Management Daily). If, however, there was a signed contract between the employer and the employee, then the employee could fight against his termination as he had the due process by his side.
Furthermore, the employer is not obligated to offer more training to the employee. Before an employee is hired in health institutions, Vincent (2011) demonstrates that the employee is required to study thoroughly as well as undergo a probationary period before they can be assigned leading roles in the organization. In this case, therefore, the employee probably received training after joining the organization. This is imperative in ensuring that one is well oriented on the job responsibilities that they shall be expected to undertake once employed. When the employer realized that the employee was incorrectly detailing the patients charts, he suggested a corrective plan (Aiken, McTegue, & Lee, 2014) which allows an employee to improve on their conduct and work performance. In this case, the associate was expected to reeducate himself on how to correctly document the charts. However, the employee did not improve but continued making the same mistakes. This was an indication of lack of respect, disregard of responsibilities and residence to comply in order to draw the attention of the employer. Therefore, the employer does not have any obligation to offer any more training to the employee.
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Termination should be implemented as a last option (Business Management Daily). Some employees might demonstrate misconduct as a way to get back to the employer. When an employer and an employee have an employment agreement, the organization cannot terminate their employment without just cause unlike in the at-will arrangement. The employee is also bound by the contract; hence, there are little chances of resigning whenever they want. Walsh (2012) explains that some employees might be stubborn or demonstrate misconduct and ineptitude to get a revenge on their employee, especially because they have the due process working for them. Moreover, they might be disgruntled and only want the attention of their employer. An open dialogue, therefore, might have been an option for the two parties. The employer should have asked the employee why there wasnt any change even after the corrective action assigned. This might have been an opportunity for the employer to analyze if the employee was rebellious, genuinely misunderstood the filing process, or simply ignored the rules. As Aiken, McTeigue, and Lee assert (2014), dialogue and communication present an opportunity for both the parties to understand each other and solve the problem amicably. If the employee decides to file a lawsuit, the employer shall have the advantage of having tried to establish what the problem was.
The employer should not have fired the employee as fast as he did either. In advising on how to fire employees legally, Walsh (2012) states the importance of the following three-step-process. The first step involves a verbal warning which the employee received from the organization but the staff member failed to heed to. The next step involves a written warning, and the employer should have issued the employee with a written caveat of termination setting a timeframe for the employee to amend his mistakes. Lastly, the employer should have issued the employee with a notice of termination before actually terminating the contract. The notice explains to the fired individual the reasons for the termination and gives the employee a chance to make clarifications. In the case of a lawsuit, therefore, the employer will have followed the process, whether it was an at-will or a contracted employment agreement.
Apart from instant termination, the employer could have enacted other disciplinary measures. First, demotion has been proved to work in correcting errors and misconduct. Walsh (2012) asserts that demoting employees affects their personal achievement and makes them work harder to be promoted back to their former position. While at the demotion levels, they can not only correct their mistakes that called for the demotion, but also an employer or a manager can address other areas that the employee should improve on. If, and when the employee demonstrates significant and satisfactory improvement, the employer can renew them to their former position. The employer in the case study, therefore, could have opted for an alternative action such as demotion.
Moreover, suspension without pay has also been cited to be effective in cases of employee misconduct, stubbornness, or poor performance. The employer could have chosen to suspend the worker rather than terminate his employment because the termination creates a deficit in skills offered by the fired employee making such action the last option for the employer to consider. The suspension also allows the employee to take some time to reflect on their errors. If they still do not improve after the reinstatement, the employer can fire the employee in question. Thus, the employer in the case study should have considered suspension without pay rather than firing the employee.
On the other hand, the employee could have complied with the corrective action plan suggested by the employer. A corrective action plan, explains Walsh (2012), is not a form of punishment. In some cases, it has been used to enforce the discipline of employees but in this case, it was meant to help the employee improve his performance. Mistakes in patients charts are intolerable because they not only place the patients lives in danger but can also result in lawsuits if the patients establish that their charts were wrongly filled. Therefore, the employee could have followed the corrective plan or better yet, talked to the employer and explained why he was making mistakes at work.
In conclusion, the case study demonstrates examples of ethical and legal issues among health professionals. Employers can be served with lawsuits if the employees feel that they have been wrongly dismissed. However, ethics and high quality are part of patients safety and thus, employers are forced to make impromptu decisions sometimes. Ethics and legal issues go hand in hand and hence, it is important to know the different options available not just for the best interests of the patients but also for the organizations. Due process works best for terminated employees when there is an implied or signed contract between the two parties. However, in the case of an at-will arrangement, the employer is justified to fire the employee any time without offering an explanation on the same. Due process, in this case, does not work to the advantage of the employee. Therefore, health professionals should be aware of legal issues that might result from actions such as employee termination.