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Doctors With Hospital Privileges Are Not Employees

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals recently considered whether a physician who was sexually harassed was an employee of the hospital where she had privileges.
Yelena Levitin performed surgeries at Northwest Community Hospital where she was permitted to send patients for treatment and use the facilities to operate on her patients. The hospital did not compensate Levitin for these surgeries, rather her patients paid through her private medical practice.
She complained to the hospital administration that another male surgeon was harassing her. The hospital responded, reprimanding the physician and thereafter the harassment ceased. Soon after, other doctors at the hospital complained about her medical judgment. When the Medical Executive Committee reviewed her practices, they voted to terminate her privileges. She sued under Title VII for discrimination and retaliation. When the district court dismissed her case on summary judgment, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals reviewed the case and upheld summary judgment. In determining whether an individual is an employee under Title VII, the employer’s right to control is the essential element to consider. While in some circumstances a hospital could exercise sufficient control over a doctor for an employer-employee relationship to form, under the facts of this case, it did not. Levitin had complete independence over her work; she set her own hours, picked her own surgeries, used her own staff, and could send patients to other hospitals.