by Stephen K. Marmaduke
Some of the most common employment-related legal issues faced by veterinarians include discrimination, harassment, whistle blower claims and leave laws. A more detailed discussion of each of these issues is included below.
Discrimination refers to the disparate treatment of employees or job candidates based on certain protected characteristics, such as age, gender, disability, religion or sexual orientation. As a veterinarian, accusations of discrimination may arise when you hire employees, terminate employees, assign duties to various employees or select employees for promotion. In all of these situations, you must be careful to consider how your actions will affect members of protected classes.
Despite education and increased public awareness, sexual harassment claims persist. Sexual harassment claims can arise when employers, clients or coworkers are accused of harassing an employee. As an employer, it is your responsibility to maintain a safe, harassment-free environment for your employees.
Whistle Blower Claims
The law provides protection for employees who report unsafe working conditions or fraudulent activity to the appropriate authorities. Be aware that, regardless of whether a claim is accurate, you cannot retaliate against an employee who makes a report against your practice in good faith.
When an employee is absent, leave laws govern your actions. In many cases, you won’t know the reason for the absence, and you may not know how long it will last. However, privacy laws prevent you from asking specific questions about the employee’s medical condition. Depending on the nature of the absence, the employee may be covered by the Family Medical Leave Act and/or California Family Rights Act, which allow up to 12 workweeks of leave per year for certain covered medical needs. The Americans with Disabilities Act may also cover some leaves.