Q&A: How to fire a troublesome employee without getting sued

August 15, 2008

One of my staffers is periodically rude to patients and sloppy with paperwork. I've spoken to her about it several times but she keeps backsliding. I'd like to fire her. How do I protect myself in case she tries to sue me?

Q: One of my staffers is periodically rude to patients and sloppy with paperwork. I've spoken with her about it several times, but she keeps backsliding. I'd like to fire her. How do I protect myself in case she tries to sue me?

A: If you haven't already established a clear office policy for dismissals, do so now. This should be outlined in an employee manual that is given to all staff members. Serious infractions, such as embezzlement or theft, warrant immediate dismissal; for more minor transgressions, it's smart to give employees several chances to improve. You could state that the first slip will result in an oral warning, the second a written reprimand, and the third immediate termination, for example. Have your employees sign statements saying they've received and read the rules. Then start building your case for dismissing the rude staffer. The next time she's snide to a patient, put a note in her file outlining what she did, what she must do to correct the problem, and what you did to warn or reprimand her. Keep examples of her bad paperwork too. That way you'll have evidence to prove that you dismissed her for legitimate reasons.