Two threats your practice may face in the next 30 days

Two seasonal risks may threaten your medical practice in the next 30 days, here’s how to manage them.

We are taking a pause from our ongoing series ‘Trusts 101 For Physicians’ this week to discuss two time-sensitive non-patient risks your practice may face in the next 30 days. The first is two weeks away, with Halloween nearly upon us. The second follows about a week later, with the mid-term elections.

The return of holiday party liability

Office holiday parties of all kinds have always been a predictable and recurring source of risk and conflict but were artificially suppressed by covid for the last two years. With the widely adopted use of vaccines and the removal or mask and distancing restrictions, we predict they will be back with a vengeance. As in every other area of life, practice leaders should expect a significant ‘learning curve’ as to appropriate behavior as your organization returns to having various events, including significant oversight and judgment by management.

If your practice has a lot of holiday spirit and decorates the business premises for Halloween and other various holidays and allows or encourages Halloween costumes, please keep the following issues in mind.They will help manage risks by clarifying the expectation that the office is first and foremost, a welcoming and inclusive place of business.

Costumes need to business appropriate

If your organization is allowing or encouraging employees to dress up for Halloween or are doing so as an office, it’s always best make costumes optional, especially if your office has staff that may be uncomfortable or unable to do so due to religious, physical or other subjective, personal concerns.

Be explicitly clear, in advance, that costumes that play on ethnic, racial, and other stereotypes are always off limits (remember, people are still regularly stupid enough to wear blackface). Given the current hyper-polarized state of political discourse in this country, be careful about those with political themes that may be inflammatory. A Biden, Trump or Hillary mask may not be objectionable per se, but adding handcuffs or Klan hoods certainly may be. Some experts suggest that a theme party is a safe way to limit creativity and the risk of personal judgement.

Decorate your place of business tastefully

Decorations, especially in the age of animated, motion activated and often graphically horrific decor should be approached in the context of intelligent business risk management.

  • "Spooky" or seasonal items like the traditional pumpkins, jack-o lanterns, black cats, ghosts, witches and fall leaves are usually safe. Avoid anything that is sexual, religious, overtly satanic or political in nature that could be considered offensive, "hostile" or "discriminatory" or that depict women or children that have been killed or injured. Sound obvious? Take a look at what’s for sale in your local Halloween store.
  • Graphic, excessively violent or bloody or "startling" is a red flag. If a piece of animatronic decoration makes everyone scream and jump when it goes off, consider the effect on the single most fragile patient or visitor at your practice.
  • Always beware of premises liability and make sure that the decor itself doesn't create safety risks either actively (like poking, tripping, electrocuting or falling on top of someone), or passively, by concealing dangers or blocking exits, cameras and other safety equipment.

Managing election related risks in the workplace

The pending midterm election will be one of the most contentious in recent American History and your workplace faces both internal and external risks. I’ve previously covered election related external risks including those to physical safety in significant detail as physicians, hospitals and healthcare facilities have increasingly come under attack by politically motivated actors.

The internal risks are largely related to employment liability as strong political opinions on all sides can create a contentious workplace. Limit arguments and political debates, jokes and emails in the workplace. They are often perceived as discriminatory and can lead to serious, expensive claims like ‘retaliation’, and a ‘hostile work environment’. This is no way an intrusion on the often-abused concept of “free speech”. No doubt, you, your employees and your patients have every right to strong private political opinions, but the especially divisive nature of this year's election and its focus on issues that are heavily based on race, gender, sexual orientation, and sexual conduct in particularly graphic language, make this one a business liability minefield. The workplace, including your professional medical office, is not the public square.

Ike Devji, JD, has practiced law exclusively in the areas of asset protection, risk management and wealth preservation for the last 16 years. He helps protect a national client base with more than $5 billion in personal assets, including several thousand physicians. He is a contributing author to multiple books for physicians and a frequent medical conference speaker and CME presenter.

Learn more at www.ProAssetProtection.com.