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More complaining than complained about?

11 July 2014
As a practice owner, one has to be meticulous in documenting decisions, especially where dismissals could lead to claims of unfairness...

A young dentist travelled half-way around the world to take up a position in general practice. He had not been there long before he realised that things were not turning out quite as well as he had hoped. In fact a number of patients had complained about the dentist’s abrupt manner and poor standards of treatment.

The practice owner had a word with the dentist on several occasions, but to no avail. The flow of complaints continued and eventually the practice owner decided to terminate the young dentist’s employment.

The young dentist was extremely upset by this and he complained that he had been treated unfairly and dismissed on racial grounds. He pointed out that another young dentist in the practice had also had complaints made about her work and she had been neither warned nor asked to leave the practice.

Excellent records

The practice had kept excellent records of the complaints and their resolution and a written report had been prepared following the formal discussions between the young dentist and the practice owner when the issues of communication, manner and treatment standards had been identified.

The young dentist’s allegation of racial discrimination was dismissed, the Tribunal accepting the practice owner’s explanation that the circumstances of the one complaint made about the second associate were entirely different to the many complaints relating to the dentist who had been dismissed.

The practice owner was also able to demonstrate that a number of dentists of diverse ethnic origin had worked successfully at the practice over many years – the issue here was one of professional standards and not about ethnicity.

Learning point:
Transparency in decision making as well as good record keeping are important requirements both when offering employment and when terminating it. 
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These case studies are based on real events and provided here as guidance. They do not constitute legal advice but are published to help members better understand how they might deal with certain situations. This is just one of the many benefits Dental Protection members enjoy as part of their subscription. 
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