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Employee Peer Review Related Questions

Peer review is a process of evaluation involving qualified professionals from the same profession or field for self-regulation. It helps improve standards, maintain quality, and provide credibility to the object of review. Reviews can be varied — academic review determines the veracity of the research published, whereas professional reviews focus on the performance of individuals. This practice is most common among health care professionals who undergo clinical peer review. Since peer reviews play an important part in an employee’s career, it is important to under the legal aspects that ensure a fair review.

Here, legal experts answer some of the top questions on the subject.

What is the best way to prepare for a peer review when one has been unjustly terminated in the state of Louisiana?

The most effective preparation for any peer review is to present absolute facts and evidence — instead of opinions and accusations — to counter each allegation. In your particular case, since Louisiana is an “employer at will” state, you may be terminated for any or no reason as long as it is not an illegal termination — one based only on your age, race, sex, or disability — or a violation of your contract. If you are terminated despite the peer review, you may file for unemployment benefits and prove they had no good cause for such action against you.

Though the peer review determined I was unfairly fired and should be reinstated, the terms of reinstatement are unfair as I am 59 years old and of poor health. What should I do at arbitration?

Since arbitration is a formal process in which rules of evidence apply, it is best to hire an attorney to represent you. The formalities may be the same format as that of a trial, requiring you to submit an initial statement of facts upon which you base your claim, followed by a presentation of your case where you present proof of facts constituting your wrongful termination. Without a litigation background, you may find it difficult to represent yourself, which is why an employment law attorney would be very helpful.

I am a physician at a large New York City hospital with a collective bargaining agreement contract. The management is asking me to resign or they will start a focused peer review of my practices. Can I obtain a court injunction stopping my employer? As I am on H-1B visa, I may not have enough time to transition between jobs and may have to return to my country. Please advise.

It is best to retain an attorney and file for an injunction because peer review challenges are mostly met with resistance from the courts. This may also cause enough delay for you to begin your H-1B transfer. Attempts at circumventing the Healthcare Quality Improvement Act (HCQIA) may not be successful in federal and state courts without adequate evidence that the committees' adverse actions were based upon their race, sex, religion, age, or national origin. Here too, if staff physicians are independent contractors, and not hospital employees, they will not be covered by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits employment discrimination.

What are the legal guidelines for non-professional peer review in North Carolina? In the absence of an employment agreement, can this process be made a condition of employment?

Without a written employment contract, you are an at-will employee and the employer determines the terms of employment as long as there is no illegal discrimination. The same applies to internal office policies. Your employer is within his/her rights to require you to participate in a peer review — where they may terminate you for refusing — and use the results for internal purposes.

Typically, peer reviews ensure work standards are met, identify deviations from standards, and provide solutions for improvement. However, if you have questions on how peer reviews affect your employment status or contract, a legal expert can help provide a better understanding of your rights.
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