As a veterinarian, your priority is treating your clients' pets and livestock. At the same time, preventing and resolving employment disputes is crucial. By working with an experienced veterinary attorney, you can avoid disputes and remain compliant with applicable federal and state employment laws. That's where Mahan Law comes in.
Our firm represents veterinary professionals around the country in all aspects of practice management, including employment disputes. From discrimination and harassment to wage violations and contract disputes, we are committed to protecting your interests so that you can focus on practicing veterinary medicine. Contact our office today for a consultation.
What Veterinarians Need To Know About Employment Disputes
Our firm has extensive experience helping veterinary practices prevent, negotiate, and litigate employment disputes, including:
All employers, including veterinary practices, must comply with federal and state equal employment opportunity laws, such as:
- Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII)
- The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA)
- The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
These laws prohibit employers from making employment decisions (e.g. hiring, compensating, promoting, terminating) based on race, color, national origin, sex, age, disability, and other legally protected characteristics.
Employment disputes arise when an employee or job applicant claims they were denied a job opportunity, passed over for a promotion, or terminated because they belong to a protected class. You can trust Mahan Law to ensure your hiring and firing practices adhere to applicable anti-discrimination laws and defend your veterinary practice against employment discrimination claims.
Sexual harassment is a form of unlawful discrimination under Title VII and state laws. In a veterinary setting, claims of quid pro quo sexual harassment may arise when a practice owner or supervisor makes sexual demands in exchange for a benefit of employment, such as a job offer or pay raise. An employee may also allege that veterinary associates, coworkers, vendors, or clients make offensive comments of a sexual nature that created a hostile work environment.
Veterinary practices must provide their employees with a work environment free from sexual harassment, establish employment policies to prevent harassment, have a reporting system for complaints, and take corrective action when claims of sexual harassment are verified. Working with an experienced veterinary attorney is the best way to avoid employment disputes arising from claims of sexual harassment.
Veterinary practices must follow the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and applicable state law by paying employees the applicable minimum wage and paying overtime to eligible employees (time-and-a-half for all hours over 40 hours per week). Employment disputes may arise from:
- Minimum wage violations
- Overtime pay violations
- Employee misclassification
- Unpaid commissions
Whether your payroll is managed in-house or outsourced, you must avoid costly mistakes and potential wage violations that can lead to administrative proceedings or lawsuits.
Federal and state laws protect employees from retaliation when they report fraud or dangerous work conditions in veterinary practices. For example, a veterinary hospital cannot take adverse action (e.g. fire, demote, discipline) against an employee who reports mishandling chemical substances or other environmental hazards.
Wrongful Termination Disputes
Most states are "at-will" employment states, meaning that employers can fire employees at any time, with or without cause. However, a veterinary practice cannot terminate employees for unlawful reasons, including:
- Retaliation – You cannot terminate employees for participating in legally protected activities such as complaining about discrimination, harassment, or wage violations, reporting safety violations, or filing a workers' compensation claim.
- Public Policy – Veterinary practices cannot terminate employees in violation of public policy allowing them to exercise a legal right, for reporting or refusing to participate in illegal activity, or for required public service, such as jury duty or military reserve activities.
- Breach of Contract – Terminating employees working under an employment contract may result in wrongful termination lawsuit.
Employment Contract Disputes
Veterinary associates often enter into contracts with practice owners specifying the terms and conditions of employment, such as:
- Duties and responsibilities
- Schedules (e.g. weekend hours)
- Employee benefits (health insurance, vacation pay, sick days)
- Term of employment
- Grounds for termination
A veterinary practice may face an employment dispute that rises to the level of litigation if it breaches an associate contract by changing the terms and conditions of employment.
Veterinary practices often require associates and other employees to sign noncompete agreements as a condition of employment whereby they agree not to take a position with a competitor or start a competing practice after their employment ends. Employment disputes may arise when a noncompete is overly restrictive regarding duration or geographical area covered.
Contact Mahan Law About Your Employment Disputes Today
Our firm works with veterinary professionals to establish employment policies, procedures, and agreements that mitigate the risk of disputes. When employment disputes arise, we work to resolve them through methods of alternative dispute resolution, such as mediation and arbitration, but we are always prepared to litigate if necessary. Whether you are starting a new veterinary practice and need assistance establishing employment policies or your practice is facing an employment dispute, we can help. Contact our office today for a consultation.