A Medical Office Manager Fires People Unfairly

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about Office Manager authority to fire:

There is a doctors office in our town that has a nurse that does all of the firing and hiring. As soon as the new employee get her first pay increase, the Nurse finds something wrong with their work and orders her terminated. I have watched this happen since 1993. I even brought it to the Doctor owner and he just said that he will look in to it.

The only thing that I notice is that the subject Nurse is extremely nice to me and my wife but, that so wears off and she finds reason to have us come in for additional office visits to get prescriptions authorized, even though we had just recently been in for a check up, and so on. Other than changing doctors, is there any recourse for such treatment of employees in Illinois?

Signed, Concerned

Dear Concerned:

The size of the office you are dealing with and the situation involved would indicate that an employee can be terminated (fired/let go) for a variety of reasons, without there being any regulatory or legal requirements. (And you would likely not know those reasons, so it could be perfectly justified.)

Medical offices tend to have a lot of movement in that way because of the close quarters and because there is often the need to please the doctor or in this case, the nurse, above and beyond the actual work. On the other hand, as I mentioned, it may be there are problems with punctuality, accuracy, ethics or other things that you would not know about and that the fired employee would not mention.As far as your office visit and returns to the office, you have some control over that. The next time you are there, ask the nurse if there is anything else you need, and say that you won’t be able to drive back unless it is an emergency, so you need things taken care of then.

Talk to your pharmacist and get him as an ally to insist that the doctor’s office fax approvals or make phone calls, rather than requiring you to drive back to the office. Do not just say yes when the nurse tells you to return. Ask to talk to the doctor to verify that it is necessary. You are the customer remember, so you don’t have to go back. If it seems there is no other way but to return, write a letter to your doctor and ask that the matter be considered, to find out why you seem to be making unnecessary trips.If you are charged for coming back but do not actually see a doctor and are not having tests done, you need to talk to your insurance company, since they are probably paying for it. That would be an unethical action by the medical office.You don’t need to change doctors if you like and trust your current one. But you need to keep in mind that you are a customer of theirs, so you do not have to tolerate just anything that happens. On the other hand, like any other business in town, they can deal with their employees as they want to, and it’s up to the employees to complain if there are some employment violations.These things can be frustrating, I know! A medical office becomes almost like family after awhile, if you visit there a lot. You can’t help but notice the dynamics and wonder why some people are allowed to act as they do. My experience has been that doctors don’t want to be involved with the employee issues, and they often turn that over to the office manager. (In many cases the office manager is the wife of the doctor, which REALLY can create problems if not handled well. If handled well, it can make for a very good situation. So it varies.)If you ever hear or notice something that is truly inappropriate in the actions of the nurse toward an employee (berating them or talking to them rudely in some other way) let the doctor know that such actions are upsetting to patients who are waiting. (You could complain about that to any business).

But otherwise, I doubt there is much you can do, and not much the doctor will be concerned about as long as the office is working OK. One thing you can do that is positive is to write thank you notes to the manager or the doctor, in which you specifically commend individual employees for very specific tasks they do or the way they do their work. Send a copy to the employee. Or, send the employee a letter or card and send a copy to the manager or doctor. That way, good employees have positive things in their records and they have things they can use if they seek other employment. It also may help them if the doctor is reviewing why the manager is asking for someone to be fired. I hope this was helpful. Best wishes!

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina had a thirty-three year career in law enforcement, serving with the Denver Police Department from 1969-1994 and was the Presidential United States Marshal for Colorado from 1994-2002. She provides training to law enforcement organizations and private sector groups and does conference presentations related to leadership, workplace communications and customized topics. Her style is inspirational with humor.