PROACTIVE PRACTICE MANAGEMENT
“We have a patient who
sometimes ‘misbehaves’ during visits by either playing practical
jokes on the staff or making inappropriate sexual and politically
incorrect comments. What are the steps we should take up to and
employer, you are shouldered with the responsibility to provide a work
environment that is safe and free of discrimination, intimidation, and
hostility. If you witness behavior first-hand that is unacceptable from
a patient, the best scenario is to approach the patient immediately and
ask that this behavior not continue as you feel it is inappropriate. If
a member of your team brings the behavior to your attention, then you
must provide direction and take action to correct the problem. In
today’s article, I’ll provide suggestions to handle this
different thresholds of tolerance. What might seem a bit funny to one
may be intolerable to another. What might seem acceptable to some may be
offensive to others. For instance, a highly recognized sports magazine
publishes a swimsuit edition each year where bikini clad women are
photographed in exotic locations. The issue appeals to some men (and
some women), yet is scorned by some women (and some men). If a patient
were to bring this into the office and use it as a basis of conversation
regarding sexuality, a person may be offended.
example may be a person who comes to the office and recites a joke that
has sexual or inappropriate implications. Some may be offended by this
conduct; others find it amusing. There are venues for blue comedy or
offhand remarks such as comedy clubs. However, a workplace is just that,
a place to work and provide services. And again, as the employer, you
must make certain that the workplace is safe and free of harassment,
intimidation, and discrimination.
to the question posed for this article, harassment is a form of
discrimination that violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Work Environment harassment occurs when unwelcome comments or conduct
based on sex or race interferes with an employee’s work performance or
creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment.
commit this type of harassment such as a co-worker, or non-employee,
such as a contractor, vendor, guest, or even a patient of record. The
victim can be anyone affected by the conduct, not just the individual at
whom the offensive conduct is directed.
today’s day and age has become broad-based. Some examples include but
are not limited to:
When an event
occurs that creates unease in the office, the first step to take is to
act immediately. Bring the team together at the first possible moment
where patient services are not interrupted. This may be right before a
lunch break, or at the end of the day before anyone leaves the office to
go home. Talk about what happened, and then review the office’s policy
regarding what is considered harassment. Every person in the office
should know what is considered inappropriate behavior.
advisable to have a strong, enforceable policy prohibiting harassment,
sexual harassment, sexual discrimination, and inappropriate behavior.
This policy should be contained in the office’s Employee or Personnel
Policy Manual. A signed acknowledgement form stating the employee has
read and understands the office’s policies should be included in each
employee’s personnel file.
On some rare
occasions, the guest or patient may not be entirely at fault. Try to
discern if employee actions encouraged the misbehavior from the patient,
without singling out team-members. If you have determined it was a
team-member’s encouragement and dismissed it originally as just
teasing, that was a mistake. The correct approach is to take the
employee aside and discuss the issue in private. Come to an agreement on
policy and how these situations are not tolerated. Agree to move forward
in a positive light agreeing that events like these are avoided in the
To provide a
bit of guidance regarding how an employee manual would stipulate the
office’s policy on Sexual Harassment, consider the following:
employer is committed to providing a work environment free of discrimination.
In keeping with this commitment, the employer maintains a strict policy
prohibiting sexual harassment. This policy applies to all employer
agents and employees, including management. Sexual harassment includes:
flirtations, touching, propositions, verbal abuse of a sexual nature,
graphic or suggestive comments about an individual’s dress or body or
actual or perceived sexual orientation, the display of sexually
suggestive objects or pictures, including nude photographs.
harassment also includes, but is not limited to unwanted sexual advances
and requests for sexual favors where either (1) submission to such
conduct is made an explicit or implicit term or condition of employment;
(2) submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is
used as the basis for employment decisions affecting such individual; or
(3) such conduct has the purpose or effect of substantially interfering
with an individual’s work performance or creating an intimidating,
hostile, or offensive working environment. Employees who violate this
policy are subject to disciplinary action, including dismissal.
of harassment, including work-related harassment between employees,
patients, or any other persons, should be reported immediately to the
employer and/or to the designated individual. Employees will be given
the name and or title of the individual so selected. A prompt investigation
will be conducted as discreetly as possible. Obviously, no employee
reporting any such harassment will be subject to any sort of retaliatory
action. Any employee accused of prohibited conduct will have the
opportunity to explain the conduct in question. In the case of our
employees, if harassment is proven, the offender will be disciplined, up
to and including termination. It is the responsibility of every employee
to conscientiously follow this policy.
behavior between co-workers, employers & workers, vendors, and
patients may happen. Discuss with your team how you will handle this
issue. Establish a policy that is professional, sensible, and in line
with your dental practice’s fundamental principles. Regardless of how
patients conduct themselves, your team must know the office’s policies
and behave in a responsible, professional manner within the work