A dental HR expert on policies and workplace violence: What you need to know

By Tim Twigg, DrBicuspid.com contributing writer

October 28, 2020 -- One of our most popular articles this month on DrBicuspid.com detailed how many dentists and dental team members have been the subject of verbal or physical abuse by their patients or have been lambasted on social media or review sites for their work and/or attitude. With our society on edge after dealing with COVID-19 for months, as well as civil unrest and natural disasters in many parts of the U.S., it may not be surprising that more of us are enduring higher levels of stress -- and that the stress can sometimes spill over into unfortunate clashes.

As a follow-up to that article, I reached out to dental human resources expert Tim Twigg of Bent Ericksen & Assoc. for his thoughts on the matter. In light of what is going on in our society today, Twigg wanted to send a message about the importance of protecting employees in the practice, not only from a safety standpoint but also from a legal standpoint as well.

Tim Twigg
Tim Twigg.

Here are the thoughts he shared with me:

While it is true that verbal and/or physical harm toward dentists is on the rise, a concern also exists for the safety of their employees in the workplace. And with that come risks and liabilities for dentists (the employers).

All employers have an obligation that extends to prevention and protection of employees in the workplace. This obligation is about ensuring a safe and secure work environment. As a result, many legal obligations exist currently and have for many years. First, there is a broad regulation from [the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)] that states that employers are required to provide a safe workplace for all employees. Second, more than 15 states have enacted some form of new laws specifically targeted at domestic violence protection and more states are likely to follow.

Preventing violence in the workplace begins with a well-written policy. However, by itself, a written policy will not prevent violence. It simply provides the basis on which the employer will take action in order to protect all employees. In most cases, early detection and communication is essential to overall prevention and protection.

Violence in the workplace can be a legal landmine that awaits unsuspecting employers. One misstep could cause the employer to become vulnerable to claims of not doing what is necessary to provide a safe and secure workplace.

Twigg and his team at Bent Ericksen & Assoc. have compiled a guide called "HR Considerations for Handling Employee Sickness Post-COVID-19: A How-To Guide." It is designed to help practitioners navigate through the issues of employees being exposed and/or infected.

The comments and observations expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the opinions of DrBicuspid.com, nor should they be construed as an endorsement or admonishment of any particular idea, vendor, or organization.


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