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Exaggeration can be falsification, attorney says
Verifying the qualifications of staff can sometimes mean trying to decide when embellishment crosses the line into falsification, says A. Kevin Troutman, JD, an attorney with the law firm of Fisher & Phillips in New Orleans, who assists hospitals with risk management projects.
Troutman says risk managers should remember that if patient harm results, plaintiffs' attorneys and jurors will look critically at the decision you made. That means you should have a low threshold for declaring an applicant or employee's submission to be falsified, he says.
"One thing you can do is ensure that your application forms include the warning that any material misrepresentation or omission, when discovered, is grounds for termination," Troutman says. "That sets the groundwork from the beginning, sending the message that you're taking a hard line position on this and you want the complete truth up front."
Without such reminders, employees and applicants can be lax and assume that a little embellishment or a white lie does no harm, he says. Troutman also suggests including the reminder in orientation sessions, and the employee handbook should state that "any information provided to the employer on an ongoing basis must be accurate and complete, and any material omission or misrepresentation is grounds for termination."
For more information on liability from falsified credentials, contact: