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Fam Pract Manag. 1999 Jul-Aug;6(7):50.

Handling an EEO complaint


How do I deal with an equal employment opportunity complaint at my practice?

A complaint about discriminatory conduct or sexual harassment may be made internally, or you may receive notice of a formal complaint from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Regardless of whether the complaint is internal or external, you should take several steps immediately.

First, ensure that there is no retaliation against the complainant. Examples of retaliation include demotion, ostracism, spying or starting a paper trail to justify later disciplinary action. Advise the complainant to report any conduct he or she views as retaliatory. Also, inform the accused that retaliation will result in disciplinary action (and possibly personal liability). Even if a jury finds that the original complaint has no merit, it can still award significant damages based on retaliation.

Second, retain a labor law firm to investigate the complaint. This may seem like an overreaction, but it is not; remember that all complaints must be taken seriously. The investigating attorney should be prepared to testify, if a lawsuit ensues, that the complaint was investigated thoroughly and fairly.

If it is not feasible to retain a law firm, choose someone independent and fair to perform the investigation (e.g., a person in a management position who is uninvolved with the issue). Ask the complainant to give you a list of all potential witnesses to contact, and have him or her write down and sign all the allegations.

After the investigation, come to a “good faith” determination of what happened. If harassment or discrimination occurred, take immediate corrective action that punishes the perpetrator and ensures that such activity will not continue. Inform the complainant of the results of the investigation and whether (not what) corrective action was taken.

Also, check your insurance policies and immediately notify your insurers of the potential claim or lawsuit.

Intoxicated patients


Occasionally, one of our patients is clearly intoxicated by alcohol. If the patient drives after leaving the office, we have chosen to notify the police rather than confront the person and risk a public disruption. How would you advise that we handle this situation?

Establish a policy for handling intoxicated patients, give a written copy of the policy to all employees and discuss its implementation to prevent confusion or compliance problems. Here are some suggestions to keep in mind when creating your practice's policy.

  • Document everything in detail. This can be done on a form that's separate from the patient's medical progress note (i.e., an incident report), but the form should be accessible anytime the chart is pulled.

  • In a nonconfrontational manner, approach the patient about being intoxicated. Express concern about the patient's ability to drive, and offer to help the patient find an alternate ride home. Some practices even pay the patient's cab fare out of a special pettycash fund.

  • If your initial approach is met with belligerence or a refusal to cooperate, call the police.

  • If this is a recurring problem, speak with your practice's general liability insurance company to confirm that the practice would be covered in the event of a claim by an intoxicated patient.

Group averages


For group practices, is there an average number of days on call per physician or an average number of hospitals that groups cover?

Specific averages for days on call aren't available because this number usually varies from group to group based on the number of physicians in the call rotation. Since family practice demands 24-hour call, 365 days per year, the number of days on call is determined by dividing 365 by the number of physicians in the call rotation.

The number of hospitals covered is a function of the location of the practice. Some physicians in rural areas may not have any hospital privileges or responsibilities, while those in large urban areas may be actively involved with several hospitals. In the larger areas, the formula for determining days on call may need to be adjusted since it may be necessary to have more than one physician on call at all times to cover all the hospitals.

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Copyright © 1999 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.
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