In order to avoid potential legal liability, the owner of a dental practice should establish workplace policies in order to properly handle allegations of harassment. A practice owner should have a zero tolerance policy regarding harassment of any kind. The harassment of any individual because of race, color, gender, sexual orientation, religion, national origin, ancestry, age, marital or parental status, disability or other status protected under state and federal law should be strictly prohibited. The owner of a dental practice has a legal responsibility to address complaints of harassment or discrimination, both in the workplace and between staff members, and also by outside parties doing business with your practice. Below, are a number of policy measures that practice owners should put in place to protect their practice from liability.
- Strictly forbid sexual harassment of any individual. Any unwelcome verbal or written comments of a sexual nature, physical conduct, unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature should be considered sexual harassment and should subject the offender to appropriate disciplinary action when:
- Submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a condition of an individual’s employment;
- Submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as a factor in any decision affecting the individual’s employment, including performance reviews, compensation, scheduling, etc.; or
- Such conduct interferes with an individual’s employment or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive employment environment.
- Strictly forbid other forms of harassment. Any unwelcome verbal or written comments or physical conduct of a hostile or offensive nature based on a person’s race, color, religion, sexual orientation, national origin, ancestry, age, marital or parental status, disability, or other federally protected status should subject the offender to appropriate disciplinary action.
- Designate a staff member to receive harassment complaints. This staff member should conduct a prompt and thorough investigation of any harassment complaint. All complaints should be treated as confidential, to the extent consistent with the corrective action and investigation.
- Implement appropriate disciplinary action. Any individual found to have engaged in any form of harassment or discrimination should be disciplined appropriately, up to and including termination. If an investigation shows that an employee was the victim of harassment by a third party employed by a company with which the practice owner conducts business, management should take appropriate action in dealing with the management of the accused offender.
- Adequately inform your staff of the policy. Each employee of the dental practice should receive a copy of the practice’s policy regarding sexual harassment.
With the proper guidelines in place, a practice owner should create a harassment-free workplace.
For questions or comments regarding this article please call (770) 554-1400.
Stuart J. Oberman, Esq.
Stuart J. Oberman is the founder and President of Oberman Law Firm. Mr. Oberman graduated from Urbana University and received his law degree from John Marshall Law School. Mr. Oberman has been practicing law for over 30 years, and before going into private practice, Mr. Oberman was in-house counsel for a Fortune 500 Company.
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