Dental and Medical Counsel Blog

How to Legally Terminate an Employee in Your Optometry Practice

October 5, 2022
Terminate Someone from Your Optometry Practice

Whenever you hire an employee for your optometry practice, you hope that they will be a great asset for your business. However, sometimes they're just not a great fit - whether they are constantly tardy, inappropriate toward their coworkers or patients, or underperforming at their designated tasks. At some point during your career, you will likely have to terminate an employee. To avoid any trouble, it is imperative that you follow the necessary legal procedures. Seeking out an optometry attorney can help you protect your practice and establish an easy-to-follow process.

Why Should You Terminate an Employee?

There are several reasons you may need to let an employee go. Perhaps their behavior is impacting your business, hurting workplace morale or posing a health or safety risk to others in the optometry office. It's important to keep in mind that your reason for terminating an employee needs to comply with state and federal laws. An optometry startup consultant can be a great resource if you need help.

Some common grounds for Termination include excessive lateness or absenteeism, poor job performance, or breaches of practice policy. Attendance or chronic tardiness issues, violence or threats against employees, poor personality or attitude, problems with patients, lying to patients, and creating a negative employment atmosphere are also popular reasons.

You can fire an employee for any of these reasons, but consider the facts and circumstances of each case and worker when making your final decision. There is a specific way to go about ending someone's employment in order to make the process more straightforward. Not only will this method make it easier for the employee to accept their termination, but your company will also be protected from any potential legal issues that could arise in the future. Here is the proper way to terminate an employee:

Outline your Practice's Standards

The first step to building a solid foundation for your optometry office is an employee handbook. This document will outline the expectations you hold for all employees and what happens if these expectations are not met.

At a minimum, the employee handbook should include:

  • workers' rights
  • Employer Obligations
  • Working conditions
  • workplace rules and regulations
  • Performance evaluations, disciplinary action and termination procedures
  • Employee benefits, including sick leave, PTO and medical benefits
  • Administrative information including salary, overtime, etc.

Include a code of conduct that details expected attire, the company's principles and any other important details that impact company culture or image. The handbook should also include the fact that your optometry office is an at-will employer; you reserve the right to dismiss an employee at any time for any reason. Avoid including anything that can be read as an employment contract. An optometry start up consultant can look over your documents and ensure you are not unknowingly binding yourself to any unwanted agreements. You want to make it clear that behaviors that do not align with the guidelines make them subject to termination. Be mindful of unintentional verbal agreements as well.

The employee handbook is the central document for all questions regarding workplace rules and regulations. This is the first point of contact for employees who have questions about office rules or want to know how to resolve office disputes. Therefore, it is important that the employee handbook is complete and up to date.

Create a Termination Policy

Despite how much trouble they've caused, terminating an employee is never an easy thing to do. When you own your own practice it will be your responsibility to see an optometry attorney and design a termination policy to ensure things are done decently and in order. Please note that the terms are subject to change and may be changed at your discretion. It is also likely that changes will need to be made during the course of operations to address specific issues or staff.

Things you should consider include:

What behaviors could lead to termination?

Decide which actions could lead to dismissal. This does not need to be specifically stated in the employee handbook (when stated it might indicate that an employee must only avoid the specific behaviors listed to avoid termination and make matters more difficult for you and your optometry contract attorney). Consider how you would deal with problematic employees and what actions would lead to the path of least confrontation.

Have you documented any unsatisfactory behaviors?

Document any issues with colleagues. If the employee gives reasons for dismissal, this must be clearly documented. Additionally, if they attempt to apply for unemployment, they must provide information as to why they were fired. Documentation will also help your optometry contract attorney protect you in the event of a lawsuit later on. If an employee has taken disciplinary action or discussed the need to change their behavior or practices, document it.

Who is the designated person responsible for terminating employees?

Establish who is responsible for dismissing employees and how to make these decisions. You can fire an employee in rotation or designate a specific person for the situation. The termination policy should also include the fact that the employee should not be alone in the task of terminating him. Bring someone else to the meeting, whether it's another optometrist or a trusted companion who doesn't have a personal investment in hiring that person.

Why is the employee being terminated?

Please select a time. Firing an employee on the spot when they get upset about a particular event or behavior is not the right way to dismiss even the most troubled employee. Instead, take your time to cool down. Rarely do problems arise that can't wait until tomorrow morning. Write down the description and keep it concise. Provide a clear explanation for the employee's termination to avoid any unnecessary outrage for all involved.

Farewell, Say Goodbye, Bye, Road, Sign

Finalize the Termination

There are several necessary steps that must be completed before the termination can be finalized:

  • Collect any keys or access badges the individual was given
  • Change any passwords the individual knows including access to buildings and software
  • Give the individual their last check and final documents

Ensuring these things have been handled properly protects your practice in the event of future legal issues.

When Should You Terminate an Employee?

Once you've come up with a well-considered reason for firing an employee, act on it as soon as possible. Because the problem causing them to be fired is likely to have an influence on the company or your employees, it's preferable to stop it as soon as possible.

Choose an opportune time to have the termination meeting instead of letting them go in the middle of their workday. By waiting until later on, you're being respectful of both the situation and the employee. Not to mention, there will be fewer people around asking questions or prying into what's going on.

Dedicate adequate time to the termination meeting. If you have to let an employee go, be prepared for questions. You owe it to them to explain your decision and what the next steps are. People react differently in these situations, so take the time to listen to their concerns. Be honest in your answers and avoid getting into a heated argument or debate.

Even if you're firing someone, it's critical to express your appreciation for the great services they offered while employed. This helps you conclude the meeting on a good note and demonstrates that you value them despite having to let them go. Before their departure, wish them well and shake their hand.  Whenever you have to let someone go, maintain a professional attitude to make the experience as smooth as possible.

Avoid Retaliation Discharge

Retaliation Discharge is a form of wrongful termination that involves terminating an employee as an act of revenge for something not related to their work performance. If you have detailed questions regarding your reasons for dismissal or retaliation discharge contact an optometry attorney.

Be consistent in your policies and practices. Hold all employees accountable for their actions to the same degree and do it consistently. Document your actions so there is a paper trail that shows you uphold your expectations for every employee equally.

Dismissing an employee is never easy, but it is sometimes necessary. To avoid any legal trouble, it is important to follow the proper procedures. You should find an optometry startup consultant that can help you. First, you should have a well-documented Employee Handbook that outlines your company's expectations and standards. You should also have a solid termination policy in place after speaking with your optometry contract attorney. Finally, be consistent in your policies and practices, and make sure to document everything. Following these steps will help your optometry contract attorney protect your business in the event of any future legal issues.

Dental and Medical Counsel can act as an optometry startup consultant and provide the employment law help you need to protect your practice. We work exclusively with dentists, physicians, optometrists, and veterinarians to offer advice and best practices that are specific enough for your business needs. Contact us today to set up a free consultation with optometry attorney Ali Oromchian.

Schedule A Complimentary Consultation Now

At Dental & Medical Counsel, PC, we understand optometrists have trouble navigating the legal process. We believe every optometrist deserves the best advice and service so doctors can do what they do best, treat their patients. We make optometrists' lives easier by providing expert guidance, so they can focus on their personal and professional aspirations.

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About Ali Oromchian, Esq.

Ali Oromchian, JD, LL.M. is the founding attorney of the Dental & Medical Counsel, PC law firm and is renowned for his expertise in legal matters

In addition to practicing law for almost 20 years, Ali is also a renowned speaker, throughout North America, on topics such as practice transitions, employment law, negotiation strategies, estate planning, and more! Ali has helped hundreds of optometrists realize their professional goals and looks forward to aiding you in navigating the legal landscape. 


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