Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Another fight brewing!

Yeah, but this one is righteous! I’m going to help my daughter fight her ex-employer.

She worked at a medical practice for 14 months. They fired her. Why? Ah, there’s the issue!

Their version: she was fired for misconduct. She made a statement in front of a patient that could have given a negative impression of the medical practice. After a stern verbal warning about this, she was overheard almost immediately making another negative comment to a different patient.

Her version: she asked the doctor, with the patient present, if the next follow up appointment could be delayed beyond when the doctor was requesting as the week in question was already very full. She was told no. The office manager overheard this exchange and immediately took her aside to tell her the question was inappropriate as it implied to the patient that the practice was too busy. She apologized, but pointed out that the question would have been asked at checkout anyway. Nevertheless, she accepted the warning.

Some time later she had prepped a different patient (a baby) for the doctor after being told that the doctor would be in to see the baby next. She made small talk with the baby’s parents. (No pun intended there.) Some time passed and the parents were becoming anxious. My daughter went to check, saw the doctor approaching and said to the parents with a relieved smile, “OK, we’re finally ready to see you now.” That attempt at pleasant empathy got her fired.

Big deal, right? So they let her go. So what? In Texas employees are considered “at will,” meaning they can be fired at any time for any reason or for no reason. The only thing the law prohibits is an ILLEGAL reason (like age, sex, religion, race, ethnic origin, etc.)

Well, the “big deal” is unemployment compensation. In Texas, if you lose your job you are entitled to unemployment (which affects the employer’s payroll tax rate!) There are only two exceptions: voluntarily quitting, or being fired for misconduct (usually rules violation). So employers wanting to get rid of someone will try to avoid paying the higher tax by claiming misconduct.

No, I’m not a lawyer. I’m a long-term Human Resources Manager. I’ve sat through a bunch of appeals hearings over this issue, usually arguing the company’s side. This time I’m going to be on the other side of the table. More to come as it develops.


Anonymous said...

Having worked in a medical practice, though in a different field of medicine, I can tell you that we often had clinets waiting, and frequently apoligized to them for the wait. Also many recheck appointments were scheduled at different times based on clinet schedules and doctor availability. These two comments hardly seem grounds for someone to be fired. If your daughter worked there for 14 months, surely they have to have a bigger reason to let her go then two little comments. Dosen't she get performance reviews, shoulden't they start with retraining, etc. I am not an HR professional but I know how hard it can be to find a good employee, and you don't just let him/her go for a couple of mistakes. Whats the real deal?

Anonymous said...

Hi, this is the daughter here! To the person who posted the previous comment: thanks! that was my opinion exactly! I had excellent performance reviews,and raises. What Dad didn't mention is that to maintain eligibility for unemployment one must make a minimum number of job search contacts per week. This is fine, in fact I have already had two interviews. The hard part is facing a prospective employer and explaining that I was fired from my last job, while to top everything else off, I am seven months pregnant. And going broke. Well, we do have an appeal pending and hopefully the unemployment will come through... Dad will probably keep you up to date.