Duty to the Employer

“When I started working decades ago for a chain, the amount of tech help you got was based on the number of prescriptions you filled.

Then the chain added patient calls, and doctor calls.  And the amount of tech help you got was still only based on the number of prescriptions you filled.

And then the chain added immunizations.   And the amount of tech help you got was still only based on the number of prescriptions you filled

And then the chain added MTM.  And the amount of tech help you got was still only based on the number of prescriptions you filled

And then the chain added  Point of Care.  And the amount of tech help you got was still only based on the number of prescriptions you filled

And then the chain changed the workflow so that filling a prescription now takes almost twice as long to fill.  And now we have to do initial verification of prescriptions for other stores.  And the amount of tech help you got was still only based on the number of prescriptions you filled

And then the chain cut my tech help.”

–Anonymous pharmacist

The relationship between pharmacist employee and employer—usually corporate—is perhaps at its lowest point since these entities joined years and years ago.  Pharmacists froo a long time had the upper hand in this relationship due to the chronic dearth of professionals.  With the current plethora of colleges of pharmacy and numerous graduates, the pharmacist shortage ended and employers found themselves with more than enough applicants to fill openings.  With this shift in circumstances, employers have exercised their ability to now demand from those who use to do the demanding.  And this has led to a sharp decline in the employer-employee dynamic.

While the paradigm has shifted, pharmacists must keep in mind that they still have duties of loyalty to their employers.  Failing to meet these may result in deiscipline, termination, and, in some cases, liability.

WHILE EMPLOYED

During a time of employment the pharmacist should:

–follow the policies and procedures outlined by the employer.  Exceptions to these are when such are in conflict with applicable law and/or the proper exercise of professional judgment.  For example, if it is the pharmacy policy to fill CS Rxs two days early, the pharmacist should follow this policy except when the Rx states not to be filled until the day due or when the pharmacist’s professional judgment reasonably determines that filling this early is not in the best interests of the patient.

–seek to maintain the business, build the business, and/or minimize business loss where such loss is unavoidable

–do not disparage the business either while on or off duty in any public forum.  If you wish to gripe about your employer on social media, 1) do not mention your employer by name and 2) remove your employer name from your social media profile beforehand.  Keep in mind that while truth is a defense against defamation, even spreading the truth with the sole intent of causing harm may lead to liability.

–avoid actions that could harm the employer, except where these actions are required by law and/or are in the best interests of the patient.  Do not make derogatory remarks about prescribers, keep your political opinions to yourself, do not disparage the products you are selling, etc, etc

Failing to abide by these precepts may lead to discipline and/or termination.  Courts have upheld the right to terminate employees who violate internal policies more times than you would care to count.  And while many employment laws were written to protect the employee, employment law overall favors the employer.

WHEN THE EMPLOYEE IS PLANNING TO LEAVE

Usually when a pharmacist is planning to leave a job, it is to take on other employment.  The mere mention of leaving to go to another job is usually forbidden by corporate policy—such conversation may indicate to a patient that the pharmacist is unhappy with the current employer.

When planning to leave, the pharmacist must keep in mind that he has a fiduciary duty to the current employer; this is a duty of loyalty to guard and care for the current employer and its business.  As above, until after leaving the job, the pharmacist should continue to follow policies and procedures abd seek to maintain the business.  Especially if the new job could directly or indirectly come into competition with the current employer, the move should not be mentioned.  Any action by the pharmacist that could be interpreted as seeking to steal business for the new job location is actionable by the current employer and punishable by the Board of Pharmacy.

AFTER EMPLOYMENT HAS ENDED

A duty to the employer does not automatically terminate upon an employee leaving the company.  Causing harm to the former employer through the use of information gained during the time worked, again, may be actionable.  Pharmacists should maintain an air of professionalism toward a former employer.

If there was an employment contract, it needs to be reviewed carefully.  A non-compete clause must be followed exactly as to time period and geographical area.  Certainly, these criteria can be ignored if the new job will in no manner interfere directly or indirectly with the former employer’s business.  For example, a pharmacist formerly employed in retail could immediately upon departure take a job in a home health infusion pharmacy.

Even if the employer engaged in questionable or outright illegal tactics to get rid of you, tread carefully in your response to such termination.  My telephone and email are full of communications from pharmacists employers are trying to rid themselves of—usually the older higher paid pharmacists.  But get a lawyer and seek legal redress in an appropriate manner.   Violating the fiduciary duty that exists even after termination or publicly dissing your former employer will hurt your case and even open you up to action by the employer.

Despite how an employer may treat a pharmacist, and the manner in which this occurs is certainly changing in the current environment, the pharmacist must be careful in responding.  There is a level of loyalty that is demanded and deserved.  Employers must be respected, at least to the degree that professionalism is respected in return.

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