Judge Says Florida Pediatric Group Must Face EEOC Suit

Attorney George F. Indest III By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

On November 4, 2020, a Florida federal court judge ruled that a Tampa-based pediatric medical group cannot escape a U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) lawsuit, denying its attempts to dismiss the case. According to the federal agency, Pediatric Health Care Alliance unlawfully retaliated against a nurse after the nurse reported a doctor for sexual harassment. U.S. District Judge Thomas Barber denied the medical group’s motion to dismiss, saying it neglected to confront or defend against the nurse’s claim that the medical group demoted her as punishment.

The EEOC Complaint: Nurse Forced to Quit After Reporting Sexual Harassment.

On June 22, 2020, the EEOC filed an employment lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida. According to the complaint, a female nurse at Pediatric Alliance reported that a doctor at the company inappropriately touched her on two different occasions. Notably, that doctor was also the Vice President (VP) of the company.

According to the suit, the nurse suffered almost immediate retaliation for filing the complaint against the VP. The EEOC alleges that Pediatric Alliance transferred her to a different location against her wishes, replaced her nursing duties with administrative ones, and docked her pay. As a direct consequence of the retaliation, the EEOC contends that the long-time employee was, in effect, forced to resign.

To read the EEOC’s press release on the lawsuit, click here.

To read the EEOC’s lawsuit, in this case, click here.

Retaliation for filing A Sexual Harassment Complaint is Unlawful, Even if it Later Turns Out the Complaint Wasn’t Valid: Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

Under federal law (Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964), employees have a legal right to raise workplace discrimination or harassment complaints. If an employee exercises this right, their company or organization is strictly prohibited from retaliating against them for doing so. Employers cannot take adverse employment action against an employee in retaliation for making a formal or informal complaint of harassment.

Adverse action occurs when an employee is penalized or punished in some form. In this case, transferring the nurse to a less desirable location, reducing salary, and taking away job duties are all examples of adverse action.

Analysis of the Ruling.

In this case, the defendant’s medical group/employer tried to get the court to dismiss the lawsuit (complaint) based on the EEOC’s earlier determination that the nurse failed to sufficiently support charges of sexual harassment. If the employer had not retaliated against the nurse, in this case, would have then been over. But that didn’t happen. The complaint asserted a claim of retaliation in violation of Title VII, not sexual harassment.

The court also noted that the medical group did not argue that the EEOC’s retaliation allegation was insufficient. Accordingly, the judge denied the motion to dismiss filed by Pediatric Alliance, the employer.

To view the court’s opinion in full, click here.

Tips for Employers to Avoid EEOC Complaints.

1. The employer should adopt a “zero tolerance” policy for discrimination and harassment.

2. Make sure your officers, supervisors, and key employees are instructed on a regular basis about what situations are considered sexual harassment or discrimination.

3. Make sure your officers, supervisors, and key employees sign a statement each year, stating that they are aware of the company’s “zero tolerance” policy and what constitutes harassment and discrimination.

4. Establish a method by which employees can submit reports of harassment and discrimination without the perpetrator becoming aware of it. This should be part of the employer’s compliance program.

5. Be sure your company or group has a good directors and officers (D&O) liability insurance and excess liability insurance policy that covers sexual harassment and discrimination claims.

6. Include an indemnification clause in the contracts of officers, supervisors, and key employees, requiring them to indemnify the employer in any case where the employer is held liable for acts of sexual harassment or discrimination.

7. Be sure that an employee who files a complaint does not have adverse employment action taken against him or her, especially based solely upon the word of the person against whom the complaint was filed. Bring a human relations expert in as early as possible to consult on the case, as well as an employment law defense attorney.

8. Make sure that all employees, including officers, supervisors, and key personnel, receive training once a year on avoiding sexual harassment and discrimination and document it in their personnel/human resources file. Hiring an outside trainer can make this less burdensome and more enjoyable. Again, this should be part of the employer’s compliance plan.

 

Don’t Wait Until It’s Too Late, Talk to an Experienced Attorney Now.

Florida workers have a right to report sexual harassment or discrimination without facing retribution, but workers often file complaints that are not valid. The EEOC advances opportunities in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Find out how The Health Law Firm can help if you are an employer that finds itself in this legal situation.

Additionally, please read one of our recent blogs dealing with a similar EEOC lawsuit.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Nurses and Other Healthcare Professionals.

The Health Law Firm’s attorneys routinely provide legal representation to nurses, physicians, medical groups, pharmacists, pharmacies, physicians, and other health providers. We provide legal representation for employers in EEOC complaints, workplace discrimination complaints, and suits involving harassment or discrimination complaints. We also provide legal representation in Department of Health, Board of Medicine, Board of Nursing investigations and complaints, DORA investigations and complaints. We provide litigation services in state and federal courts and state and federal administrative hearings. We provide legal representation across the U.S., not just in Colorado, Florida, Louisiana, Virginia, and Washington, D.C.

To contact The Health Law Firm please call (407) 331-6620 or Toll-Free at (888) 331-6620 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

Shanes, Alexis. “Fla. Pediatric Group Can’t Dodge EEOC Retaliation Suit.” Law360. (November 4, 2020). Web.

“EEOC Sues Pediatric Health Care Alliance for Retaliation Over Harassment Complaints.” U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). (June 22, 2020). Web.

Bean, Mackenzie. “Florida practice retaliated against nurse for reporting harassment, EEOC says.” Becker’s Hospital Review. (November 9, 2020). Web.

 

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Avenue, Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714. Call (407) 331-6620 or Toll-Free at (888) 331-6620.

The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2021 The Health Law

 

 

Doctors & Nurses: Follow These 30 Tips for Professional Correspondence

By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

I review many letters, e-mails, memoranda, and other types of correspondence prepared by my physician and nurse clients during my legal representation. These come to me often because of a dispute with a hospital, their peers, an insurance company, a lawsuit filed by a patient, a complaint being investigated by the licensing agency, an investigation of an incident, or another serious matter.

In many cases, way too many cases, such correspondence is unprofessional and defeats the purpose of the reason you are sending the correspondence.  Sometimes the “letter” is so bad, it will be disregarded by the reader to whom it was directed.  I have seen this from doctors, nurses, dentists, psychologists, owners of health care businesses, and many, many other highly educated professionals who really should know better.

When I receive a “letter” that has no return address on it, no date on it, is not addressed to a person or organization, has typographical errors and misspellings, does not have paragraphing, or which is not signed, I cringe.

When such documents are dictated and transcribed by a professional medical transcriptionist, they are usually properly formatted and many of the errors I note below are avoided.  However, when the health professional types (or word-processes) his or her own document or, worse yet, hand writes it, this is when I see the most errors.

To avoid these errors that make your correspondence and written communications look unprofessional, follow these tips.


Remember Why You Are Writing.

Remember, the basic purpose of your correspondence is to communicate ideas effectively. In many cases, it will be to invoke your legal rights in certain situations (such as an appeal or a hearing request). Sometimes, it will attempt to persuade your hospital, peers, or employer to take a certain action or refrain from a certain action. Remember that your correspondence is often the first impression that the other side will have of you. Do you want it to be an impression that you are sloppy, lazy, unprofessional, not knowledgeable, uneducated, or confused?

Whether you are communicating in a letter or via e-mail, these rules still hold true.  In many (if not all) situations involving legal proceedings or legal issues, it is probably best to communicate via a letter sent by U.S. mail or some other reliable delivery service (e.g., Federal Express, Airborne Express, DHL, etc.).  Even if you are transmitting your information via an e-mail, it is my suggestion to prepare it in the form of a paper letter (if your e-mail is not set up to insert your letterhead and signature block automatically) and then scan it in and send it electronically.

I discourage legal communications via e-mail in serious matters because e-mails are often difficult to obtain, isolate, and authenticate when you need them for hearings.  Additionally, they are rarely secure, often available to many others who shouldn’t see them, and easily susceptible to being accidentally sent to others who should not see them at all.

Horror Stories of Unprofessional Correspondence.

Why do I feel this article is necessary?  Because of all the truly horrible correspondence I have seen written by allegedly highly educated professionals, mostly physicians and nurses.  That’s why!

True “Horror Stories” About Unprofessional Correspondence.

Here are just a few examples of true “horror stories” regarding unprofessional correspondence:

The physician never wrote a separate response to any charges or allegations made against him after receiving letters from the Medical Staff advising him he was under investigation.  He would just handwrite (scribble, actually) his remarks on the bottoms and in the margins of whatever document was sent to him and then send it back.

A nurse practitioner was required to respond to serious negligence charges, resulting in an adverse outcome to a patient. On unlined paper, she hand wrote a response letter that was not addressed to anyone, not dated, not signed, and did not state who was sending it. There was no name or signature on it.

A physician was required to provide his analysis of a patient’s case for peer review purposes within the hospital.  His typed letter of three full pages, single-spaced, contained one long paragraph.  I used to work for a Medical Corps Admiral when I was a Navy JAG Corps officer.  The Admiral, a very educated and proper professional, would just glance at such correspondence and state:  “I can tell this doctor doesn’t have any idea what he is talking about.”  Failing to follow good correspondence procedures will show others your thoughts lack organization and cohesion.  A document that lacks organization reflects a mind that lacks organization.

A health professional was required to complete an application for clinical privileges.  He wrote all of the answers by hand, not even staying within the lines on the form, writing over the questions printed on the form and around in the margins of the application.  This is what he signed and turned in to the credentials committee at the hospital.  Believe me, this did not look very professional.

A physician was requested to respond to a medical staff inquiry from the hospital.  Her response came back typed (actually word-processed) in a type font that was 22 characters per inch (cpi), almost too small to read.  Perhaps she was just trying to save a sheet of paper.  But many of us would have had to pull out a magnifying glass or put on reading glasses in order to be able to read it.  Once it is scanned or faxed and then photocopies or re-scanned and re-faxed several times, it will be completely illegible.  If you are actually trying to communicate your ideas, make your correspondence easier to read, not harder to read.  This is my cardinal rule.

A dentist was notified of a pending complaint investigation being opened against her dental license.  She wrote her response to the charges back to the investigator, without using any business address or title, and began her response statement “Dear Sharon,”.  Do not treat others informally, especially in professional or formal situations.  You will be deemed to be unprofessional when you do so.  The investigator is not your friend, your sister, or your mommy.  Do not address her by her first name. Do not end the salutation with a comma, like you would a love letter.  End it with a colon like you would a professional business letter.


30 Tips for Good Professional Correspondence.

Here are some pointers on professional communications that should be followed in all of your professional written communications about business, professional or legal matters, even in e-mails. Please note, the terms below in quotation marks have certain defined meanings.  If you don’t know what these terms mean, look them up.

1.  Always remember that the reason you are sending the correspondence is to attempt to effectively and accurately communicate your position and ideas.  If you are trying to make your message indecipherable or difficult to understand, ignore these tips.  If you are trying to come across as someone who doesn’t give a damn about how he or she is perceived, ignore these tips.  If you want to come across as unprofessional, ignore these tips.

2.  Make sure you include your complete and correct “return address” and contact information, if you are not using your own letterhead.  This includes your physical or mailing address, telephone number, telefax number and e-mail address, so that the other party knows exactly how to reach you.  In cases where you already have this on your letterhead, be sure to use your letterhead (but only your own).  Also, it appears more professional to create a letterhead with the information in it and to use your new letterhead instead of having a professional business letter with a typed “return address.”  However, a typed “return address” is better than none.

3.  Don’t use someone else’s letterhead.  Don’t use your hospital, medical group or institutional letterhead for your own personal communications, unless you are the owner.  Use your personal letterhead (see above), instead.  If you are being accused of poor utilization review, unprofessional conduct, or personal use of hospital (or company) property, then using someone else’s letterhead just helps prove the charge against you.

4.  Date your correspondence.  Date your correspondence.  Date your correspondence.  Nothing shows a lack of professionalism and lack of attention to detail as sharply as undated correspondence.  It will certainly be difficult to prove when your letter or document was sent if you do not have a date on it.  A year or two later, it may be completely impossible to do so.  In case I forgot to mention it, be sure to date your correspondence.

5.  Use titles or honorifics.  In the “business address” of your correspondence, always use the complete name of the person to whom you are writing (if known) together with that person’s honorific or professional title (e.g., Mr., Ms., Dr., Nurse, Prof., Dean, etc.)  This shows both respect and professionalism.

6.  Always use the complete mailing address, including title, of the person to whom you are sending the letter.  In the business address of your correspondence include not only the person’s name and honorifics, but title or position and division within the institution or organization to which you are sending it.  In the case of large organizations, you should include the building and suite or room numbers and any internal routing codes, designations, “mail stops” or other organizational routing codes, that the agency or business you are writing requires to route its mail internally.  Large organizations, especially government agencies and insurance companies, all have large mail rooms which sort and route all mail the organization receives from any source.  Correct internal routing codes will help ensure that your correspondence gets to the correct person or official in a timely manner.  Often today companies scan or have all e-mails saved by a clerk, as well

7.  Always use a salutation.  This is self-explanatory, but see below.

8.  In your “salutation,” always use the person’s last name with a title or honorific.  It is customary to use the term “Dear” in a salutation in formal writing, so this is permitted.  But you may leave it out.  For example, “Dear Secretary Jones:” or “Secretary Jones:” or “Dear Dr. Johnson:” or “Dr. Johnson:”;  all of these are correct.  Never refer to the person by that person’s first name in any type of formal correspondence or correspondence that anyone else might read.  Never say:  “Dear Sue:” or “Sharon:”.  Even if you know these people well enough to call them by their first names, don’t do it in this situation;  it’s unprofessional and may be interpreted as “talking down” to the person.

9.  Always end your “salutation” with a colon, not a comma.  A comma is only used in informal communications to those you know well or socially, such as a letter to your mother or a note to your girlfriend.  Unless this is your mother or your girlfriend to whom you are writing, use a colon.  For example, “Dear Secretary Jones,” or “Dear Sue,” is incorrect.  “Dear Secretary Jones:” or “Ms. Smith:” is correct.

10.  Type (or word-process) your correspondence or have it typed (or word-processed) for you;  this is one reason transcriptionists, secretaries and clerks have jobs.  Do not send handwritten letters in formal or professional matters.  Do not write on the other person’s correspondence or documents and send them back.  Prepare and send a professional looking letter or e-mail, even if you must pay someone to type it for you (and if you are sending an e-mail, I know you can type a little bit yourself, anyway).  To do otherwise is to show laziness, disrespect and unprofessionalism.

11.  Always use a type font in your correspondence (including e-mails) of at least 12 points (10 characters per inch).  Do not use a small, difficult to read type fonts, for example, the size of the type font that most e-mail software defaults to.  Smaller type fonts than 12 points become difficult to read, especially if scanned/rescanned, faxed/refaxed or copied/recopied.  Change the default font in your e-mail software or computer word processing software, if necessary.  You can do this, regardless of how difficult it may seem at first;  I know you can do it, because I can do it.  Make your professional correspondence easier to read, not more difficult to read.

12.  Never use unprofessional looking type fonts for your communications.  Stay away from script type fonts, italics or novelty type fonts.  These are notoriously more difficult to read and look unprofessional.  You are not publishing a flyer for a high school bake sale.  Times New Roman, CG Times, and similar type fonts are more professional looking and easier for a person to read.  Use Courier or Letter Gothic type fonts if necessary.

13.  Keep the correspondence to which you are responding unmarked.  One reason to not write on or mark up the other person’s documents or correspondence is that you may need them as evidence in a court of law or a hearing some day.  Nothing looks less professional than a document you are trying to use as evidence when a different person has made handwritten marks all over it.  The impression is similar to one in which a child with a box of crayons has gotten to it.  You don’t want this or need this.  Show respect and self-control.  Keep the other side’s documents pristine.  They will look much better that way as your “Exhibit 1” in the court hearing.

14.  Use a good concise, descriptive reference line or subject line (often called the “re:” line).  Make it a very brief summary.  State what the content of your letter is actually about.  State if you are responding to a letter or document that you received from the “addressee” (the person to whom you are addressing your correspondence) of your letter.

15.  Include the recipient’s routing information.  If the intended receiver of your letter or correspondence (the “addressee”) included reference numbers, file numbers, account numbers, case name and numbers, a policy number, an investigation number, a routing number, or other similar information on its letter to you, repeat these back in the reference line of your correspondence.  This will help make sure that your correspondence gets routed to the correct file and recipient more timely.  This is especially crucial in large organizations and government agencies.

16.  The contents of the body of your correspondence should be easy to read and easy to understand.  To this end, be sure to use short sentences and short paragraphs.  Each paragraph should convey one idea.  Use headers and section titles, if necessary, to organize your correspondence, especially if it is lengthy.  Remember, headings within your letter that help to organize it are like street signs in a busy city.  They will really help any subsequent reader (and this may be a judge, a jury or a Board of Mediciney) to navigate his, her or its way through your letter.

17.  Be sure to skip a line between each paragraph and, preferably, indent the first line of each paragraph.  [Note:  Some writers will tell you not to indent the first line of each paragraph in professional correspondence;  however, I feel that this makes the correspondence more difficult to read, so I encourage indenting or tabbing in on the first line of each paragraph.]  This makes it easier on the reader and more likely that your ideas will not get lost in a crowd of words.

18.  Keep your paragraphs short and to the point.  Nothing turns readers off as much as a single lengthy paragraph written from margin to margin taking up the whole page.  I suppose some people may have never been taught what paragraphs are.  However, I am willing to bet that most were.  These rare used even in foreign countries.

19.  In longer correspondence, use section headings (in bold or underlined) or headings for each issue, to better organize it.  Think of these as road signs on a long road.  They help the reader to know where he or she is at any given time, and where he or she is going.

20.  When using headers, skip two lines before the header and one line after the header. This helps to set off the new section and header and show a definite division.

21.  Keep your language objective and professional.  Do not ever use profanity [Oops, I just went back and removed the word “damn” I used above.]  Do not ever use any comments even remotely resembling racism, sexism, or antisemitism or prejudice.  Do not be sarcastic.

22.  Be direct and concise in your language.  To the greatest extent possible, use the same terminology and wording that the other party uses, or has used, or the wording used in whatever statutes, regulations, policies, procedures, instructions, or governing documents with which you are dealing (but also, be sure you know what the words and terms mean).

23.  If you intend to request a formal hearing say “I request a formal hearing.”  If you want a full refund, state:  “I request a full refund.”  If you want to appeal the decision, state:  “I want to appeal the decision.”  Don’t be wishy-washy or vague.  For example, don’t say, “I am looking for an attorney to file an appeal for me,” when what you mean to say is “I appeal the decision” or “I request an appeal.”  Say precisely what you want.  Don’t be vague or leave the reader guessing.

24.  If there are any deadlines by which you must respond, be aware of these and make sure your response is received by that date.  Remember “received” means “actually received” by the correct person (or office) at the correct address.  It does not mean “mailed by” or “postmarked by.”  If you have correspondence or a document to which a response must be received by a ceratin date, you need to make sure it is actually in the receiving person’s hands by that date, even if you must hand carry it to that person.  I will usually send important documents by two different methods, in case the mail man dies, the courier service’s plan crashes or the e-mail server goes down.

25.  In closing your correspondence conclude by stating what action is next, whether this is action you intend to take, or action you are requesting the other party to take.  For example:  “I expect to hear from you within ten days as to whether you grant my request or not.”  “Please contact me with hearing dates within the next fourteen days.”  “I will forward you a refund within five days.”  “I will send you my records within five days.”

26.  Always advise the other party of exactly how they should contact you;  provide multiple means of contacting you.  If you are very busy or have an assistant who is authorized to act for you, provide that person’s name and contact information to use as an alternate, as well.  Then be available to receive the return communication(s).  Don’t give telephone numbers you never answer.  Don’t provide an incorrect address (e-mail or physical).

27.  In dealing with dates and deadlines, remember that ten days is ten days;  fourteen days is fourteen days, twenty-one days is twenty-one days.  Made up rules such as “weekends and holidays don’t count” are just that, made up (outside of formal court proceedings).  If the other party has given you “fourteen days to respond,” this means fourteen days from the date on the letter, unless specifically stated otherwise.  Fourteen days means fourteen days, unless it is specifically stated otherwise (e.g., “you have fourteen business days to reply”).

28.  Include a professional closing above your signature.  This should be “Sincerely,” “Sincerely yours,” “Respectfully,” “Respectfully submitted,” or some other professional closing.  Do not conclude with “Love,” or “Very truly yours,” despite the tradition.

29.  In your signature block, include your full typed name, with credentials and title or position listed.  For example, your full name, followed by your degree and other credentials (e.g.,  “John J. Smith, M.D., F.A.A.C.P.”) should be on the line immediately below where you sign.  Next should be listed your position within your organization (if applicable) (e.g., “Chair, Pediatrics Department”).

30.  If you have enclosures, list them at the end of the correspondence, giving a brief or shortened description and numbering them (this is slightly different from military correspondence).  List and number them in the order you discuss them in your correspondence.  Be sure they are properly organized, labeled and divided, especially if any are lengthy.

Following these simple rules, most people learn in middle school will help to keep your correspondence professional looking and in conformity with what most professionals see on a daily basis.  If your correspondence is professional-looking, people will be more likely to think you are a professional and to treat you professionally.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Healthcare Professionals.

The Health Law Firm’s attorneys routinely provide legal representation to nurses, physicians, medical groups, pharmacistspharmaciesphysicians, and other health providers. We provide legal representation for employers in EEOC complaints, workplace discrimination complaints, and suits involving harassment or discrimination complaints.  We also provide legal representation in  Department of Health, Board of Medicine, Board of Nursing investigations and complaints, DORA investigations and complaints.  We provide litigation services in state and federal courts and state and federal administrative hearings.  We provide legal representation across the U.S., not just in Colorado, Florida, Louisiana, Virginia, and Washington, D.C.

To contact The Health Law Firm please call (407) 331-6620 or (888) 331-6620 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.


About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law is an attorney with The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com  The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Avenue, Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, Florida 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620 or Toll-Free: (888) 331-6620.

KeyWords:  representation for Professional correspondence, The Health Law Firm, legal representation for health care physicians, health care professional representation, defense lawyer for health care professionals, reviews of The Health Law Firm, tips for professional correspondence, The Health Law Firm attorney reviews, representation for professional letters, healthcare professional letter representation, representation for correspondence for doctors and nurses, professional correspondence for legal dispute, Florida health law attorney, legal representation for nurses, nurse defense lawyer, physician defense lawyer, reviews of The Health Law Firm, The Health Law Firm attorney reviews

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2021 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Florida Pediatric Group Must Face EEOC Suit for Nurses’ Retaliation Compliant Says Judge

Carole C. Schriefer, J.D., has 25+ years of experienceBy Carole C. Schriefer, J.D.

On November 4, 2020, a Florida federal court judge ruled that a Tampa-based pediatric medical group cannot escape a U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) lawsuit, denying its attempts to dismiss the case. According to the federal agency, Pediatric Health Care Alliance unlawfully retaliated against a nurse after the nurse reported a doctor for sexual harassment. U.S. District Judge Thomas Barber denied the medical group’s motion to dismiss, saying it neglected to confront or defend against the nurse’s claim that the medical group demoted her as punishment.

The EEOC Complaint: Nurse Forced to Quit After Reporting Sexual Harassment.

On June 22, 2020, the EEOC filed an employment lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida. According to the complaint, a female nurse at Pediatric Alliance reported that a doctor at the company inappropriately touched her on two different occasions. Notably, that doctor was also the Vice President (VP) of the company.

According to the suit, the nurse suffered almost immediate retaliation for filing the complaint against the VP. The EEOC alleges that Pediatric Alliance transferred her to a different location against her wishes, replaced her nursing duties with administrative ones, and docked her pay. As a direct consequence of the retaliation, the EEOC contends that the long-time employee was, in effect, forced to resign.

To read the EEOC’s press release on the lawsuit, click here.

To read the EEOC’s lawsuit, in this case, click here.

Retaliation for filing A Sexual Harassment Complaint is Unlawful, Even if it Later Turns Out the Complaint Wasn’t Valid: Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

Under federal law (Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964), employees have a legal right to raise workplace discrimination or harassment complaints. If an employee exercises this right, their company or organization is strictly prohibited from retaliating against them for doing so. Employers cannot take adverse employment action against an employee in retaliation for making a formal or informal complaint of harassment.

Adverse action occurs when an employee is penalized or punished in some form. In this case, transferring the nurse to a less desirable location, reducing salary, and taking away job duties are all examples of adverse action.

Analysis of the Ruling.

In this case, the defendant’s medical group/employer tried to get the court to dismiss the lawsuit (complaint) based on the EEOC’s earlier determination that the nurse failed to sufficiently support charges of sexual harassment. If the employer had not retaliated against the nurse, in this case, would have then been over. But that didn’t happen. The complaint asserted a claim of retaliation in violation of Title VII, not sexual harassment.

The court also noted that the medical group did not argue that the EEOC’s retaliation allegation was insufficient. Accordingly, the judge denied the motion to dismiss filed by Pediatric Alliance, the employer.

To view the court’s opinion in full, click here.

Tips for Employers to Avoid EEOC Complaints.

1. The employer should adopt a “zero tolerance” policy for discrimination and harassment.

2. Make sure your officers, supervisors, and key employees are instructed on a regular basis about what situations are considered sexual harassment or discrimination.

3. Make sure your officers, supervisors, and key employees sign a statement each year, stating that they are aware of the company’s “zero tolerance” policy and what constitutes harassment and discrimination.

4. Establish a method by which employees can submit reports of harassment and discrimination without the perpetrator becoming aware of it. This should be part of the employer’s compliance program.

5. Be sure your company or group has a good directors and officers (D&O) liability insurance and excess liability insurance policy that covers sexual harassment and discrimination claims.

6. Include an indemnification clause in the contracts of officers, supervisors, and key employees, requiring them to indemnify the employer in any case where the employer is held liable for acts of sexual harassment or discrimination.

7. Be sure that an employee who files a complaint does not have adverse employment action taken against him or her, especially based solely upon the word of the person against whom the complaint was filed. Bring a human relations expert in as early as possible to consult on the case, as well as an employment law defense attorney.

8. Make sure that all employees, including officers, supervisors, and key personnel, receive training once a year on avoiding sexual harassment and discrimination and document it in their personnel/human resources file. Hiring an outside trainer can make this less burdensome and more enjoyable. Again, this should be part of the employer’s compliance plan.

 

Don’t Wait Until It’s Too Late, Talk to an Experienced Attorney Now.

Florida workers have a right to report sexual harassment or discrimination without facing retribution, but workers often file complaints that are not valid. The EEOC advances opportunities in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Find out how The Health Law Firm can help if you are an employer that finds itself in this legal situation.

Additionally, please read one of our recent blogs dealing with a similar EEOC lawsuit.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Nurses and Other Healthcare Professionals.

The Health Law Firm’s attorneys routinely provide legal representation to nurses, physicians, medical groups, pharmacists, pharmacies, physicians, and other health providers. We provide legal representation for employers in EEOC complaints, workplace discrimination complaints, and suits involving harassment or discrimination complaints. We also provide legal representation in Department of Health, Board of Medicine, Board of Nursing investigations and complaints, DORA investigations and complaints. We provide litigation services in state and federal courts and state and federal administrative hearings. We provide legal representation across the U.S., not just in Colorado, Florida, Louisiana, Virginia, and Washington, D.C.

To contact The Health Law Firm please call (407) 331-6620 or Toll-Free at (888) 331-6620 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

Shanes, Alexis. “Fla. Pediatric Group Can’t Dodge EEOC Retaliation Suit.” Law360. (November 4, 2020). Web.

“EEOC Sues Pediatric Health Care Alliance for Retaliation Over Harassment Complaints.” U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). (June 22, 2020). Web.

Bean, Mackenzie. “Florida practice retaliated against nurse for reporting harassment, EEOC says.” Becker’s Hospital Review. (November 9, 2020). Web.

 

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Avenue, Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714. Call (407) 331-6620 or Toll-Free at (888) 331-6620.

KeyWords: Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) investigation defense, discrimination harassment complaint defense attorney, legal representation for physicians, medical group defense attorney, complex health care litigation attorney, complex civil litigation attorney, complex medical litigation lawyer, medical staff peer review defense attorney lawyer, federal administrative hearing defense attorney, hospital complaint investigation defense, peer review defense attorney, medical staff investigation defense lawyer, medical staff clinical privileges defense legal representation, hospital medical staff fair hearing defense attorney lawyer, hospital medical staff fair hearing defense legal counsel, legal representation for healthcare business litigation matters, The Health Law Firm, reviews of The Health Law Firm Attorneys, The Health Law Firm attorney reviews, representation for EEOC complaints, workplace retaliation defense lawyer, healthcare employment law defense lawyer, nurse attorney, legal representation for nurses, legal representation for complaints against nurses

The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2021 The Health Law

 

 

Florida Pediatric Group Must Face EEOC Suit for Nurses’ Retaliation Compliant Says Judge

George F. Indest III with 30+ years of experience, is Board Certified in health lawBy George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

On November 4, 2020, a Florida federal court judge ruled that a Tampa-based pediatric medical group cannot escape a U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) lawsuit, denying its attempts to dismiss the case. According to the federal agency, Pediatric Health Care Alliance unlawfully retaliated against a nurse after the nurse reported a doctor for sexual harassment. U.S. District Judge Thomas Barber denied the medical group’s motion to dismiss, saying it neglected to confront or defend against the nurse’s claim that the medical group demoted her as punishment.

The EEOC Complaint: Nurse Forced to Quit After Reporting Sexual Harassment.

On June 22, 2020, the EEOC filed an employment lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida. According to the complaint, a female nurse at Pediatric Alliance reported that a doctor at the company inappropriately touched her on two different occasions. Notably, that doctor was also the Vice President (VP) of the company.

According to the suit, the nurse suffered almost immediate retaliation for filing the complaint against the VP. The EEOC alleges that Pediatric Alliance transferred her to a different location against her wishes, replaced her nursing duties with administrative ones, and docked her pay. As a direct consequence of the retaliation, the EEOC contends that the long-time employee was, in effect, forced to resign.

To read the EEOC’s press release on the lawsuit, click here.

To read the EEOC’s lawsuit, in this case, click here.

Retaliation for filing A Sexual Harassment Complaint is Unlawful, Even if it Later Turns Out the Complaint Wasn’t Valid: Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

Under federal law (Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964), employees have a legal right to raise workplace discrimination or harassment complaints. If an employee exercises this right, their company or organization is strictly prohibited from retaliating against them for doing so. Employers cannot take adverse employment action against an employee in retaliation for making a formal or informal complaint of harassment.

Adverse action occurs when an employee is penalized or punished in some form. In this case, transferring the nurse to a less desirable location, reducing salary, and taking away job duties are all examples of adverse action.

Analysis of the Ruling.

In this case, the defendant’s medical group/employer tried to get the court to dismiss the lawsuit (complaint) based on the EEOC’s earlier determination that the nurse failed to sufficiently support charges of sexual harassment. If the employer had not retaliated against the nurse, in this case, would have then been over. But that didn’t happen. The complaint asserted a claim of retaliation in violation of Title VII, not sexual harassment.

The court also noted that the medical group did not argue that the EEOC’s retaliation allegation was insufficient. Accordingly, the judge denied the motion to dismiss filed by Pediatric Alliance, the employer.

To view the court’s opinion in full, click here.

Tips for Employers to Avoid EEOC Complaints.

1. The employer should adopt a “zero tolerance” policy for discrimination and harassment.

2. Make sure your officers, supervisors, and key employees are instructed on a regular basis about what situations are considered sexual harassment or discrimination.

3. Make sure your officers, supervisors, and key employees sign a statement each year, stating that they are aware of the company’s “zero tolerance” policy and what constitutes harassment and discrimination.

4. Establish a method by which employees can submit reports of harassment and discrimination without the perpetrator becoming aware of it. This should be part of the employer’s compliance program.

5. Be sure your company or group has a good directors and officers (D&O) liability insurance and excess liability insurance policy that covers sexual harassment and discrimination claims.

6. Include an indemnification clause in the contracts of officers, supervisors, and key employees, requiring them to indemnify the employer in any case where the employer is held liable for acts of sexual harassment or discrimination.

7. Be sure that an employee who files a complaint does not have adverse employment action taken against him or her, especially based solely upon the word of the person against whom the complaint was filed. Bring a human relations expert in as early as possible to consult on the case, as well as an employment law defense attorney.

8. Make sure that all employees, including officers, supervisors, and key personnel, receive training once a year on avoiding sexual harassment and discrimination and document it in their personnel/human resources file. Hiring an outside trainer can make this less burdensome and more enjoyable. Again, this should be part of the employer’s compliance plan.

 

Don’t Wait Until It’s Too Late, Talk to an Experienced Attorney Now.

Florida workers have a right to report sexual harassment or discrimination without facing retribution, but workers often file complaints that are not valid. The EEOC advances opportunities in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Find out how The Health Law Firm can help if you are an employer that finds itself in this legal situation.

Additionally, please read one of our recent blogs dealing with a similar EEOC lawsuit.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Nurses and Other Healthcare Professionals.

The Health Law Firm’s attorneys routinely provide legal representation to nurses, physicians, medical groups, pharmacists, pharmacies, physicians, and other health providers. We provide legal representation for employers in EEOC complaints, workplace discrimination complaints, and suits involving harassment or discrimination complaints. We also provide legal representation in Department of Health, Board of Medicine, Board of Nursing investigations and complaints, DORA investigations and complaints. We provide litigation services in state and federal courts and state and federal administrative hearings. We provide legal representation across the U.S., not just in Colorado, Florida, Louisiana, Virginia, and Washington, D.C.

To contact The Health Law Firm please call (407) 331-6620 or Toll-Free at (888) 331-6620 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

Shanes, Alexis. “Fla. Pediatric Group Can’t Dodge EEOC Retaliation Suit.” Law360. (November 4, 2020). Web.

“EEOC Sues Pediatric Health Care Alliance for Retaliation Over Harassment Complaints.” U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). (June 22, 2020). Web.

Bean, Mackenzie. “Florida practice retaliated against nurse for reporting harassment, EEOC says.” Becker’s Hospital Review. (November 9, 2020). Web.

 

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Avenue, Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714. Call (407) 331-6620 or Toll-Free at (888) 331-6620.

KeyWords: Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) investigation defense, discrimination harassment complaint defense attorney, legal representation for physicians, medical group defense attorney, complex health care litigation attorney, complex civil litigation attorney, complex medical litigation lawyer, medical staff peer review defense attorney lawyer, federal administrative hearing defense attorney, hospital complaint investigation defense, peer review defense attorney, medical staff investigation defense lawyer, medical staff clinical privileges defense legal representation, hospital medical staff fair hearing defense attorney lawyer, hospital medical staff fair hearing defense legal counsel, legal representation for healthcare business litigation matters, The Health Law Firm, reviews of The Health Law Firm Attorneys, The Health Law Firm attorney reviews, representation for EEOC complaints, workplace retaliation defense lawyer, healthcare employment law defense lawyer, nurse attorney, legal representation for nurses, legal representation for complaints against nurses

The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2021 The Health Law

 

 

New Florida Law Aimed at Healthcare Professional Background Screening

Attorney Michael L. SmithBy Michael L. Smith, R.R.T., J.D., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

For several years, many healthcare professionals have been required to pass a Level II background check in order to work in most Florida healthcare facilities licensed by the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA). Many healthcare professionals are also required to pass a Level II background check in order to be licensed by the Florida Department of Health (DOH). In March 2020, the Florida Legislature passed House Bill 713, which will add the offenses of battery on a vulnerable adult and battery on a patient or resident of certain healthcare facilities (primarily nursing facilities) as a disqualifying offense. The law took effect on July 1, 2020. Previously, only felony battery and battery on a minor were disqualifying offenses for purposes of the Level II background screening.

More Details on the New Legislation.

A health professional who previously passed the Level II background check may nevertheless be deemed “not eligible” for employment in a licensed health facility on the next Level II background check. This would occur if the practitioner has been found guilty of, regardless of adjudication, or entered a plea of nolo contendere or guilty to battery of a vulnerable adult, or battery on a patient or resident of a healthcare facility. (This is the wording of the statute, not mine.)

A practitioner who is determined to be “not eligible” on a Level II background check due to a disqualifying offense must apply for an exemption from that disqualifying offense, in order to be permitted to work. The practitioner seeking an exemption has the burden of proving that the exemption should be granted. The provider must prove this with clear and convincing evidence, a standard that is higher and stricter than that in a civil trial.

Any health professional seeking an exemption from a disqualifying offense should seek the assistance of an experienced health law attorney familiar with the application process, and the types of evidence that can prove that the health professional should be granted an exemption.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Health Care Professionals and Providers.

At the Health Law Firm, we provide legal services for all health care providers and professionals. This includes physicians, nurses, dentists, psychologists, psychiatrists, mental health counselors, home health agencies, hospitals, ambulatory surgical centers, pain management clinics, nursing homes, and any other healthcare provider. It also includes medical students, resident physicians, and fellows, as well as medical school professors and clinical staff. We represent health facilities, individuals, groups, and institutions in contracts, sales, mergers, and acquisitions. The lawyers of The Health Law Firm are experienced in complex litigation and both formal and informal administrative hearings. We also represent physicians accused of wrongdoing, patient complaints, and in Department of Health investigations.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call our office at (407) 331-6620 or toll-free at (888) 331-6620 and visit our website at www.ThehealthLawFirm.com

About the Author: Michael L. Smith, R.R.T., J.D., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is an attorney with The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave. Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2021 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

You’ve Been Accused of Impairment or Misconduct, What Happens Now?

Attorney George F. Indest III HeadshotBy George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

In an industry that revolves around helping others, physicians and other health professionals sometimes find that they are the ones being pushed toward a treatment program. Long hours, heavy workloads, and stress among health care professionals can sometimes lead to unsafe, unprofessional behavior and impairment allegations.

We routinely work with nurses, and other health professionals who are accused by employers, hospitals, competitors, or terminated employees of impairment due to drug or alcohol abuse, or mental impairment, of being a “disruptive physician” or of sexual boundary issues. However, not all nurses and health professionals who are referred to a health program are in actual need of rehabilitation services.


What is the Impaired Practitioners Program?

The Florida Department of Health’s (DOH) Impaired Practitioners Program (IPN), Section 456.067, Florida Statutes, is administered by the Intervention Project for Nurses or “IPN” (for nurses and nurse practitioners) and by the Professionals Resource Network or “PRN” (for physicians, dentists, pharmacists, and all other health professionals). IPN is responsible for all nurses and works with and through the Florida Board of Nursing. PRN works with and through the Florida Board of Medicine, Board of Dentistry, Board of Pharmacy, and other Department of Health Professional Boards.


You Report Yourself to IPN; What Happens Now?

These types of allegations discussed above made against a nurse or other health professional are extremely serious because they are usually treated by the DOH as “Priority 1” or “Fast Track” offenses. This means that the charges against the individual will usually be automatically considered for an Emergency Suspension Order (ESO) issued by the Florida Surgeon General at the request of the Department of Health. Unless a qualified, experienced health care attorney is able to immediately produce reliable documentation and evidence showing the health professional is not impaired, the Surgeon General will usually issue an ESO. Click here to read one of my prior blogs to learn more.

Even in cases where the individual may actually have committed an offense, there are a number of administrative and procedural measures that may be used to avoid a suspended license. For the innocent health professional, an experienced attorney familiar with such matters may be able to obtain additional drug testing, polygraph (lie detector) testing, medical examinations, scientific evidence, expert witnesses, evaluations by certified addictions professionals, character references, or other evidence which may help to show innocence and lack of impairment.


Call an Attorney Immediately, Before Making Any Decisions or Calls!

If you are accused of wrongdoing, especially accusations involving drug or alcohol abuse or impairment, even if you are threatened with being reported to the DOH or the Board of Nursing, then it may be much better to defend yourself and fight such charges instead of trying to “take the easy way out.” This is especially true if you are being falsely accused. There are many problems that you can avoid by having good legal advice before you make a stupid mistake. We are often consulted and retained by clients when, after they have made the mistake of talking to the wrong people about the wrong things, they are in a situation they could have avoided.

Our firm has extensive experience in representing nurses, physicians, and other professionals accused of drug abuse, alcohol impairment, mental impairment, and sexual boundary issue, as well as in dealing with the IPN and the PRN, their advantages and disadvantages, their contracts, their policies and procedures, and their requirements.

The bottom line is: if you are accused of drug impairment, alcohol impairment, drug diversion, sexual boundary issues, sexual misconduct, or of being mentally or physically impaired, immediately contact an attorney experienced with IPN and PRN and with the Board of Nursing, Board of Medicine, Board of Dentistry, Board of Pharmacy, and other professional boards. Don’t risk losing your livelihood by just taking the apparently easy way out without checking into it. There may be other options available for you, especially if you are innocent and not impaired.

To read one of my prior blogs about the recent changes to Florida’s Impaired Practitioners Program, click here.

Contact Experienced Health Law Attorneys in Matters Involving IPN.

The Health Law Firm’s attorneys routinely represent nurses, physicians, dentists, and other health professionals in matters involving PRN or IPN. Our attorneys also represent health providers in Department of Health investigations, before professional boards, in licensing matters, and in administrative hearings.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or Toll-Free (888) 331-6620 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

Masterson, Les. “Physician wellness, quality of care go hand-in-hand, analysis finds.” Healthworks Collective. (September 10, 2018). Web.

Maria Panagioti, Keith Geraghty, Judith Johnson. “Association Between Physician Burnout and Patient Safety, Professionalism, and Patient Satisfaction.” Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA). (September 4, 2018). Web.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2021 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Law Passed in Florida Aimed at Healthcare Professional Background Screening

Attorney Michael L. SmithBy Michael L. Smith, R.R.T., J.D., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

For several years, many healthcare professionals have been required to pass a Level II background check in order to work in most Florida healthcare facilities licensed by the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA). Many healthcare professionals are also required to pass a Level II background check in order to be licensed by the Florida Department of Health (DOH). In March 2020, the Florida Legislature passed House Bill 713, which will add the offenses of battery on a vulnerable adult and battery on a patient or resident of certain healthcare facilities (primarily nursing facilities) as a disqualifying offense. The law took effect on July 1, 2020. Previously, only felony battery and battery on a minor were disqualifying offenses for purposes of the Level II background screening.

More Details on the New Legislation.

A health professional who previously passed the Level II background check may nevertheless be deemed “not eligible” for employment in a licensed health facility on the next Level II background check. This would occur if the practitioner has been found guilty of, regardless of adjudication, or entered a plea of nolo contendere or guilty to battery of a vulnerable adult, or battery on a patient or resident of a healthcare facility. (This is the wording of the statute, not mine.)

A practitioner who is determined to be “not eligible” on a Level II background check due to a disqualifying offense must apply for an exemption from that disqualifying offense, in order to be permitted to work. The practitioner seeking an exemption has the burden of proving that the exemption should be granted. The provider must prove this with clear and convincing evidence, a standard that is higher and stricter than that in a civil trial.

Any health professional seeking an exemption from a disqualifying offense should seek the assistance of an experienced health law attorney familiar with the application process, and the types of evidence that can prove that the health professional should be granted an exemption.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Health Care Professionals and Providers.

At the Health Law Firm, we provide legal services for all health care providers and professionals. This includes physicians, nurses, dentists, psychologists, psychiatrists, mental health counselors, home health agencies, hospitals, ambulatory surgical centers, pain management clinics, nursing homes, and any other healthcare provider. It also includes medical students, resident physicians, and fellows, as well as medical school professors and clinical staff. We represent health facilities, individuals, groups, and institutions in contracts, sales, mergers, and acquisitions. The lawyers of The Health Law Firm are experienced in complex litigation and both formal and informal administrative hearings. We also represent physicians accused of wrongdoing, patient complaints, and in Department of Health investigations.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call our office at (407) 331-6620 or toll-free at (888) 331-6620 and visit our website at www.ThehealthLawFirm.com

About the Author: Michael L. Smith, R.R.T., J.D., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is an attorney with The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave. Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2021 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Women Who Posed as Nurse Sentenced to Prison For Health Care Fraud, Identity Theft, and Wire Fraud

Headshot of attorney George IndestBy George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

On September 23, 2020, a Tennessee woman who posed as a nurse working at several medical facilities was sentenced to more than four years in prison. In December 2019, she pled guilty to wire fraud, healthcare fraud, identity theft, and practicing nursing without a license.

How a Phony Nurse Gained Employment.

According to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the woman posed as a registered nurse, despite not having a nursing degree or a nursing license, and having no nursing experience. To accomplish the fraud, she obtained the license numbers of real nurses with similar first names. She admitted to providing fraudulent information on job applications to gain employment. She was employed by at least eight different health care providers between September 2012 and November 2018. She also falsely claimed that she held nursing degrees from two educational institutions, Walters State College and Carson Newman University.

This is a long time, six years, to get away with health fraud. Usually, we only see things like this in Florida. However, in the past few years, Florida seems to be seeing fewer and fewer fake doctors, nurses, and health professionals. Perhaps the crackdown by the Florida Department of Health on the unlicensed practice of health professions has had some impact on this.

Continuing Lies & Fraudulent Behavior.

While posing as a nurse, the fake R.N. worked in various medical settings, including nursing homes, rehabilitation and assisted living facilities, a doctor’s office, and home health agencies. She rendered nursing care to numerous patients, dispensed prescription medications, and gained access to patients’ sensitive and private medical information, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said. Furthermore, the woman made false entries in patients’ medical records and submitted or caused the submission of at least $500,000 in false claims to public and private health care benefit programs.

The phony nurse performed procedures that she was, of course, unqualified to perform. She failed to act or to notify others of the necessary procedures for patients and failed to chart and document patient care. According to the written plea agreement, at least one patient required re-admittance to the hospital and an additional three-day hospital stay due to her inept care.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Director David Rausch is quoted in the media as having stated: “Our Medicaid Fraud Control Division remains committed to working with our federal partners to ensure healthcare fraud and identity theft cases like this one are addressed and investigated thoroughly.”

Judge Clifton L. Corker of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee sentenced her to 51 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release. She was also ordered to repay $700,000 in restitution to her employers.

To read the DOJ’s press release about this case in full, click here.

To read about a similar case in Florida, click here to view one of my prior blogs.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with Investigations of Health Professionals and Providers.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal representation to physicians, nurses, nurse practitioners, CRNAs, dentists, pharmacists, psychologists, and other health providers in Department of Health (DOH) investigations, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) investigations, FBI investigations, Medicare investigations, Medicaid investigations and other types of investigations of health professionals and providers.
To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or (888) 331-6620 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

“Morristown woman posed as nurse for 6 years at 8 health care providers.” ABC 6 Local News. (December 12, 2019). Web.

Starks, Ariel. “Fake nurse sentenced to 51 months in prison, ordered to repay employers $700,000.” WVLT 8 Local News. (September 23, 2020). Web.

Bonvissuto, Kimberly. “Nurse imposter who worked in assisted living sentenced for wire fraud, healthcare fraud, identity theft.” McKnight’s Senior Living. (September 25, 2020). Web.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave. Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620 or Toll-Free: (888) 331-6620.

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2020 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Federal Judge Rules Florida Pediatric Group Must Face EEOC Suit for Nurses’ Retaliation Compliant

George F. Indest III with 30+ years of experience, is Board Certified in health lawBy George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

On November 4, 2020, a Florida federal court judge ruled that a Tampa-based pediatric medical group cannot escape a U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) lawsuit, denying its attempts to dismiss the case. According to the federal agency, Pediatric Health Care Alliance unlawfully retaliated against a nurse after the nurse reported a doctor for sexual harassment. U.S. District Judge Thomas Barber denied the medical group’s motion to dismiss, saying it neglected to confront or defend against the nurse’s claim that the medical group demoted her as punishment.

The EEOC Complaint: Nurse Forced to Quit After Reporting Sexual Harassment.

On June 22, 2020, the EEOC filed an employment lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida. According to the complaint, a female nurse at Pediatric Alliance reported that a doctor at the company inappropriately touched her on two different occasions. Notably, that doctor was also the Vice President (VP) of the company.

According to the suit, the nurse suffered almost immediate retaliation for filing the complaint against the VP. The EEOC alleges that Pediatric Alliance transferred her to a different location against her wishes, replaced her nursing duties with administrative ones, and docked her pay. As a direct consequence of the retaliation, the EEOC contends that the long-time employee was, in effect, forced to resign.

To read the EEOC’s press release on the lawsuit, click here.

To read the EEOC’s lawsuit, in this case, click here.

Retaliation for filing A Sexual Harassment Complaint is Unlawful, Even if it Later Turns Out the Complaint Wasn’t Valid: Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

Under federal law (Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964), employees have a legal right to raise workplace discrimination or harassment complaints. If an employee exercises this right, their company or organization is strictly prohibited from retaliating against them for doing so. Employers cannot take adverse employment action against an employee in retaliation for making a formal or informal complaint of harassment.

Adverse action occurs when an employee is penalized or punished in some form. In this case, transferring the nurse to a less desirable location, reducing salary, and taking away job duties are all examples of adverse action.

Analysis of the Ruling.

In this case, the defendant’s medical group/employer tried to get the court to dismiss the lawsuit (complaint) based on the EEOC’s earlier determination that the nurse failed to sufficiently support charges of sexual harassment. If the employer had not retaliated against the nurse, in this case, would have then been over. But that didn’t happen. The complaint asserted a claim of retaliation in violation of Title VII, not sexual harassment.

The court also noted that the medical group did not argue that the EEOC’s retaliation allegation was insufficient. Accordingly, the judge denied the motion to dismiss filed by Pediatric Alliance, the employer.

To view the court’s opinion in full, click here.

Tips for Employers to Avoid EEOC Complaints.

1. The employer should adopt a “zero tolerance” policy for discrimination and harassment.

2. Make sure your officers, supervisors, and key employees are instructed on a regular basis about what situations are considered sexual harassment or discrimination.

3. Make sure your officers, supervisors, and key employees sign a statement each year, stating that they are aware of the company’s “zero tolerance” policy and what constitutes harassment and discrimination.

4. Establish a method by which employees can submit reports of harassment and discrimination without the perpetrator becoming aware of it. This should be part of the employer’s compliance program.

5. Be sure your company or group has a good directors and officers (D&O) liability insurance and excess liability insurance policy that covers sexual harassment and discrimination claims.

6. Include an indemnification clause in the contracts of officers, supervisors, and key employees, requiring them to indemnify the employer in any case where the employer is held liable for acts of sexual harassment or discrimination.

7. Be sure that an employee who files a complaint does not have adverse employment action taken against him or her, especially based solely upon the word of the person against whom the complaint was filed. Bring a human relations expert in as early as possible to consult on the case, as well as an employment law defense attorney.

8. Make sure that all employees, including officers, supervisors, and key personnel, receive training once a year on avoiding sexual harassment and discrimination and document it in their personnel/human resources file. Hiring an outside trainer can make this less burdensome and more enjoyable. Again, this should be part of the employer’s compliance plan.

 

Don’t Wait Until It’s Too Late, Talk to an Experienced Attorney Now.

Florida workers have a right to report sexual harassment or discrimination without facing retribution, but workers often file complaints that are not valid. The EEOC advances opportunities in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Find out how The Health Law Firm can help if you are an employer that finds itself in this legal situation.

Additionally, please read one of our recent blogs dealing with a similar EEOC lawsuit.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Nurses and Other Healthcare Professionals.

The Health Law Firm’s attorneys routinely provide legal representation to nurses, physicians, medical groups, pharmacists, pharmacies, physicians, and other health providers. We provide legal representation for employers in EEOC complaints, workplace discrimination complaints, and suits involving harassment or discrimination complaints. We also provide legal representation in Department of Health, Board of Medicine, Board of Nursing investigations and complaints, DORA investigations and complaints. We provide litigation services in state and federal courts and state and federal administrative hearings. We provide legal representation across the U.S., not just in Colorado, Florida, Louisiana, Virginia, and Washington, D.C.

To contact The Health Law Firm please call (407) 331-6620 or Toll-Free at (888) 331-6620 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

Shanes, Alexis. “Fla. Pediatric Group Can’t Dodge EEOC Retaliation Suit.” Law360. (November 4, 2020). Web.

“EEOC Sues Pediatric Health Care Alliance for Retaliation Over Harassment Complaints.” U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). (June 22, 2020). Web.

Bean, Mackenzie. “Florida practice retaliated against nurse for reporting harassment, EEOC says.” Becker’s Hospital Review. (November 9, 2020). Web.

 

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Avenue, Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714. Call (407) 331-6620 or Toll-Free at (888) 331-6620.

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The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2021 The Health Law

 

 

New Law Passed in Florida Aimed at Healthcare Professional Background Screening

Attorney Michael L. SmithBy Michael L. Smith, R.R.T., J.D., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

For several years, many healthcare professionals have been required to pass a Level II background check in order to work in most Florida healthcare facilities licensed by the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA). Many healthcare professionals are also required to pass a Level II background check in order to be licensed by the Florida Department of Health (DOH). In March 2020, the Florida Legislature passed House Bill 713, which will add the offenses of battery on a vulnerable adult and battery on a patient or resident of certain healthcare facilities (primarily nursing facilities) as a disqualifying offense. The law took effect on July 1, 2020. Previously, only felony battery and battery on a minor were disqualifying offenses for purposes of the Level II background screening.

More Details on the New Legislation.

A health professional who previously passed the Level II background check may nevertheless be deemed “not eligible” for employment in a licensed health facility on the next Level II background check. This would occur if the practitioner has been found guilty of, regardless of adjudication, or entered a plea of nolo contendere or guilty to battery of a vulnerable adult, or battery on a patient or resident of a healthcare facility. (This is the wording of the statute, not mine.)

A practitioner who is determined to be “not eligible” on a Level II background check due to a disqualifying offense must apply for an exemption from that disqualifying offense, in order to be permitted to work. The practitioner seeking an exemption has the burden of proving that the exemption should be granted. The provider must prove this with clear and convincing evidence, a standard that is higher and stricter than that in a civil trial.

Any health professional seeking an exemption from a disqualifying offense should seek the assistance of an experienced health law attorney familiar with the application process, and the types of evidence that can prove that the health professional should be granted an exemption.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Health Care Professionals and Providers.

At the Health Law Firm, we provide legal services for all health care providers and professionals. This includes physicians, nurses, dentists, psychologists, psychiatrists, mental health counselors, home health agencies, hospitals, ambulatory surgical centers, pain management clinics, nursing homes, and any other healthcare provider. It also includes medical students, resident physicians, and fellows, as well as medical school professors and clinical staff. We represent health facilities, individuals, groups, and institutions in contracts, sales, mergers, and acquisitions. The lawyers of The Health Law Firm are experienced in complex litigation and both formal and informal administrative hearings. We also represent physicians accused of wrongdoing, patient complaints, and in Department of Health investigations.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call our office at (407) 331-6620 or toll-free at (888) 331-6620 and visit our website at www.ThehealthLawFirm.com

About the Author: Michael L. Smith, R.R.T., J.D., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is an attorney with The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave. Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

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“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2021 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

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