April 9, 2024

I fired an assistant who is now saying she complained before the termination she was doing services requiring a certification. She's claiming the firing was retaliatory, but she was a terrible assistant and firing her had nothing to do with her complaining. She is demanding I pay her or she will sue me. Now what?

Appreciate your insight.

Dr. P

Extortion is right!  And, pretty common, unfortunately. We live in a plaintiff rewarding society of late, and claims are prolific. In a situation like you describe, documentation will save you, perhaps.  We will need to go through what you have documented prior to, and at the time of the termination, whether there are witnesses to her failures as a medical assistant prior to termination, or, in the alternative, witnesses to her blowing the whistle and then being fired. Also completely relevant will be how long this person was out of work, and whether there is a viable "emotional damages" claim.   

As a cost of doing business, extortion by former or current employees is on the top of the list "most heinous and costly".  Attorney fees start wracking up immediately, and the claims themselves may be incredibly personal. Taking emotion out of the equation can be difficult, but viewing this type of situation as a "dollars and cents" assessment is necessary to protect yourself and your practice.

While we're on the topic, best ways to protect yourself - (1) screen employees carefully;  (2) document job duties on the way in with a proper offer letter or employment agreement; (3) engage in staff trainings on a regular basis; (4) write up underperforming or problem employees on an as needed basis and frequently; (5) document rationale for terminating employees, and engage counsel as necessary to assess paperwork in advance of termination; (6) maintain Employment Practices Liability Insurance; and (7) don't be bullied by your employees, that's no way to live.