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Doctor's wrongful termination suit opposed by Vail medical clinic

Wrongful termination suits against Colorado employers sometimes involve both legal and public relation matters. When an employee engages in conduct justifying or even requiring dismissal, an employer is concerned with protecting its own legal rights as well as complying with all appropriate employment law issues pertaining to the termination.

If that individual subsequently takes to the media to publicize a claimed wrongful termination, the employer must act to protect its reputation in the public eye, while still honoring its duties and obligations to protect its existing employees. It can sometimes feel like walking a tightrope.

A Vail medical clinic fired one of its doctors in June. However, the clinic and doctor dispute the actual effective date of termination; the clinic states it was June 30, while the doctor claims it was June 10. Regardless of the date, the parties presumably attempted to negotiate a settlement of their differences owing to the termination. The employer says discussions continued with the physician through July 26. However, with no advance notice, the doctor filed a lawsuit against the clinic on July 27.

The lawsuit claims the doctor was wrongfully terminated, without cause. It alleges the clinic removed the doctor from its insurance policy and that the June 10, termination date gave him an unreasonable amount of time to wind up his practice at the medical center. Other issues include his redemption price for his share of ownership in the clinic and a noncompetition clause that prevents the doctor from practicing within a 15 mile radius of the clinic.

For its part, the clinic maintains the doctor violated the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) in January by violating patient privacy. It notes the doctor has made inflammatory and false public allegations against the clinic. The clinic also believes it's "rights and actions will be fully vindicated in this lawsuit."

Defending claims of wrongful termination brought by a disgruntled former employee is generally an arduous task, especially when the former employee tries to use the media to gain an advantage. The courts, however, are more disposed to an impartial review of the facts and circumstances giving rise to the employment law dispute. A Colorado attorney who focuses on employment law litigation may provide an employer support and guidance to resolved matters favorably.

Source: The Vail Daily, "Sterett sues Vail's Steadman Clinic," Lauren Glendenning, Aug. 4, 2011

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