HR & Compliance |9 min read

You Asked, We Answered – HR AMA With Paul Edwards

HR Questions? Join us for HR Tuesday!

Hello AADOM Tribe! Last month, Paul and Heather announced our new HR Tuesday series: an Ask Me Anything with Paul Edwards, CEDR CEO & Founder. Throughout the upcoming year, you can submit HR issues that are happening right now in your practice to Paul and CEDR’s team of HR professionals for them to answer. Our team will pick from the dozens that are being submitted and choose several to give guidance on within our Monthly HR Article. Then, Paul and Heather will expand on the written answers during every HR Tuesday Livecast. To submit your questions, click here!

For the in-depth, expanded, and detailed answers…

Listen to HR Tuesdays live, mark your calendar for the second Tuesday of each month, or go here to check out the archived recordings.

All your daily human resource issues likely have some state, federal, or local employment laws that you must comply with while, at the same time, trying to find the best human way to solve the core problem. In this series, we will fit the two together and help you all devise some great resolutions.

Here are three of your best submissions, and for what it is worth, these are all common:

  1. How to handle a new employee who is requesting new schedule restrictions due to childcare issues that are difficult to accommodate.
  2. A manager is facing a challenging situation where a long-term employee, who has not been all that great in the past, now needs even more attention, and it is clear she is not performing as well as the patients and practice need her to. As an added twist, the employee is close to retirement.
  3. What should you consider when multiple pregnant employees need breaks for pumping simultaneously?

Let’s Get to Your Questions

Question: Our practice is located in California and has 14 employees. 60 days ago, we hired a full-time employee. Now, she is starting to have childcare issues that require her to have a more adjusted schedule to ensure she can care for her child when they’re not in school. This will require more time off throughout the year. Are we required to accommodate her? Or can we change her to part-time or go forward with termination if we cannot find a schedule that works?

  • If we were on the phone with you, we would be asking an extensive amount of questions related to schedule flexibility, the frequency of her request, and the employee’s history at your practice. All of these details come into play when giving a specific answer, but for the sake of this AMA, we will keep it general. We want to keep in mind the impact on you as the manager and on the rest of your team that this issue may have.

    Here are the laws you should be aware of: There actually is no law that requires you to change your schedule based on an employee’s childcare needs. You can tell your employee that the schedule is what it is, and it’s her responsibility to find a way to meet the requirements of her job.

    There may be specific absences that have some protection, such as needing a day off due to the child being sick or having to leave early due to an emergency daycare closing. But an ongoing lack of childcare outside of their school hours is technically not your responsibility.

    Now for the human approach: Working with your employee to find a solution is typically the ideal option.…click to learn more in a new window… If you can accommodate this employee by adjusting their current work or break schedule, this is a much easier option considering the cost of turnover, both on a monetary level and on the culture/morale of your practice.

    Even if this is impractical to allow long-term, you may want to consider adjusting her schedule for a set period of time with the expectation that she’s arranging to have childcare set up so she can return to her regular schedule.

    If the employee is really looking for long-term accommodation here, one solution could be to allow the employee to start the day later or end earlier if your practice schedule allows this. If not, and there are no adjustments that can be made to the daily schedule that would give her the flexibility she needs, exploring the idea of switching to part-time is also an option. Note that any change you make should be well documented. .

    If going over all of this still leads to no solution, then with the proper documentation and procedures followed, you can proceed with a separation from this employee.

Again! Listen to HR Tuesdays or watch the rebroadcast for expanded, in-depth analysis and discussion.

Question: Our practice is located in Oregon, and we have 20 employees. One of our long-term employees struggles to follow the policies and procedures that are in place. We have tried coaching conversations, but each time we don’t see her follow up on the things she says she will during those conversations. We also recently found out (not directly from her) that she is on medication that can cause her to have a foggier mind, which may be the main problem. What can we do? Can we drop her down to a lower-demand position with a decrease in pay? Retirement is also very close for her.

  • Here are the laws you should be aware of: The first thing we want you to keep in mind here is that every one of your employees has at least four protected classes…click to learn more in a new window…, and in this case, age and (potentially) disability will apply.

    This means you need to be careful about consistency. If the employee has always had these same performance issues and no drastic action was taken in the past, demoting her or moving toward separation could make the impression of only doing it now because you’re trying to push her out due to her age or a perceived medical issue you don’t want to deal with.

    Now for the human approach: Even with all these protections at play, you can still address the core issue, which is the team member’s performance. Addressing these objective job-related issues while also documenting is essential. You can use progressive corrective coaching…click to learn more in a new window… and the FIRR method to document.

    You need to address the performance concerns the same way you would with any other employee, and not consider age or medical issues unless those actually rise to the surface in your discussion with the employee. Your focus needs to be on what objectively needs to be fixed, without any presumption around what may be layered into the issue.

    It’s important to note that you should not mention retirement during any conversation involving their performance or possible medical condition. If you wouldn’t ask a younger associate, don’t ask an older one, either.

    If the employee brings up a medical condition or medication, switch gears and engage in the interactive process to address a potential need for accommodation.

    Here, the interactive process would start with the employee telling you that they think some medical concern is impacting their work. Your next step would be asking the employee to consult with their healthcare provider about this and provide information back to you about whether any workplace adjustments may help in enabling the employee to do their job. If you need to engage in the interactive process, read more about that here…click to learn more in a new window….

    If there are no medical issues and the performance issues continue after you’ve provided PCC, you should then have the proper documentation to show the legal reasons for any adverse action, whether that be a reduction in hours/duties or termination.

Question: We are an orthodontic office staffed with 22 full-time salaried people and are located in both Illinois and Iowa. However, two employees were pregnant at the same time and will both be returning from maternity leave soon. They will both need breaks for pumping. How do we handle this? Are we required to pay them for the time they spend pumping? That is a lot of hours added up in a month of them not actually working…

  • Here are the laws you should be aware of: As you will see, there are two states at play here with different rules, so it’s essential to be aware of both states’ laws and consider possibly applying one solution to both practices.

    Federal law requires all employers to provide reasonable breaks, as well as a private space, for nursing mothers. Nursing mothers should be given access to the same amount of break time that other employees receive for breaks, but if they need break time in excess of that the additional time can be unpaid.

    Iowa goes by federal law in this area, but Illinois has its own law that takes things into paid break territory. In Illinois, the Nursing Mothers in the Workplace Act requires employers who have 5 or more employees to not just follow federal law in providing break time and space but also to refrain from reducing an employee’s pay as a result of pumping needs. This means that any extra break time taken to pump stays on the clock and can’t be unpaid.

    Now for the human approach: A great way to figure out how to find the best solution is simply asking your employee!…click to learn more in a new window… Confirm how often and when they will need to schedule pumping breaks. With this information, you can adjust the schedules of others ahead of time (as much as possible, of course!) to ensure your practice is covered during these newly required break times.

    When it comes to what’s reasonable regarding break times, the law doesn’t define the exact amount of time that each employee can take. Each person’s needs are slightly different and tend to change over time.

    If one of the employees is in Illinois, then of course you need to follow that state’s rules around paid break time. If another employee is in Iowa, you may want to consider following the same approach even though pay isn’t required. Particularly if you have employees who work in both offices, or if there is a lot of communication between your teams, following different rules tends to cause confusion and even build resentment.

One more time! Listen to HR Tuesdays or watch the rebroadcast for expanded, in-depth analysis and discussion on all three questions. If you join us live, you can add questions as we go.

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