“How Can I Deal with a Scathing Google Review?!” You Asked – We Answered!

HR Tuesday question: How to deal with a scathing Google review?

 

AADOM—Summer is officially here!

As June breezes in, the days stretch longer, and the air grows warmer. We want you to try your best to balance your diligent work schedules with moments of relaxation under the sun. Remember to recharge and bask in the beauty that this season offers—we sure will!

The wave of HR questions continues to roll in, shining a spotlight on your dedication and curiosity. Your engaging questions never fail to impress us, and we’re thrilled to dive into them. We answer them here and cover a few over on the What the Hell Just Happened?! Podcast.

Remember, any time you have an HR issue that either stumps you or want a different perspective on how to solve it, submit it here for Paul and his team of experts to help you each month during HR Tuesday.

Always remember that your daily employee interactions likely involve state, federal, or local employment laws that you must consider when trying to find the best human way to solve the core problem. We will combine the two during our answers and help you devise some great resolutions.

Let’s turn it over to the HR Experts and get to those answers… Here are some of your best submissions this month:

  1. If the office security system has audio and video, are employees required to sign a document confirming that they are aware, or is a general posted sign enough?
  2. Our employees are punching in early to eat breakfast. Can I edit their time card to reflect the time they actually start working?
  3. We recently had a patient leave a scathing review on Google about a specific employee (mentioning them by name multiple times). I called and spoke to the patient about her experience and smoothed things over. I know I can’t ask her to remove the review, but do I still respond to the review on Google? If so, how do I do that without violating HIPAA?

Let’s Get to the Answers


Question:
If the office security system has audio and video, are employees required to sign a document confirming that they are aware, or is a general posted sign enough?

The Legal Side of Things: The requirement for notification of video and audio surveillance and the form it must take varies depending on which state you’re located in. However, best practice is to incorporate a comprehensive policy regarding workplace surveillance in your employee handbook.

This policy should detail the extent and purpose of any audio and video recording conducted within the practice. Work with an HR expert to ensure your policies are compliant!

When employees onboard with you, they should be required to sign that they read and understand the handbook, which would inform them of your office policies along with whatever policies your state may have about surveillance. This acknowledgment serves as a clear, documented affirmation that the employee has been informed of the surveillance measures and understands their implications.

It’s important to note that we strongly recommend against audio surveillance.

Audio often introduces heightened legal concerns, especially in healthcare environments like dental offices. Audio recording can inadvertently capture sensitive patient information, thereby implicating HIPAA privacy and security rules.

To mitigate potential legal risks and ensure compliance with federal and state privacy laws, many practices choose to avoid audio surveillance altogether.

Now for the Human Approach: Adopting a more human-centric approach to workplace surveillance involves transparent communication and respect for employee privacy. Beyond legal mandates, it’s essential to consider how surveillance practices affect employee morale and trust.

Open dialogue about the reasons behind surveillance—whether for security purposes, to protect assets, or to ensure patient safety—can help alleviate concerns and foster an environment of mutual respect and understanding.

Moreover, involving employees in discussions about surveillance policies and their implementation can provide valuable insights and demonstrate that their perspectives are valued. This inclusive approach not only helps in building a positive workplace culture but also reinforces a collective commitment to upholding privacy and security standards.

Bonus Podcast Listening: Check out this episode of What the Hell Just Happened?! on employee monitoring in the workplace.

Question: Our employees are punching in early to eat breakfast. Can I edit their timecard to reflect the time they actually start working?

The Legal Side of Things: There is a really fine line you’re walking here from a legal standpoint. Legally, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and similar state laws dictate that employees must be compensated for all hours worked. This includes time spent on work-related discussions or preparations.

If an employee is, in fact, working—whether that’s by discussing work-related matters, setting up for the day, or any task that benefits the employer—during their early clock-in meal time, then editing their timecard to reduce hours worked could be a violation of wage and hour laws.

However, if employees are clearly not engaging in work activities during this time—such as scrolling through social media or leisurely eating breakfast without discussing work—then this time does not necessarily count as “hours worked,” requiring compensation.

Yet, the key legal consideration here is certainty and documentation. Employers must be absolutely certain and able to demonstrate that no work was being performed before considering any adjustments to recorded work hours—which can be quite difficult to do when you weren’t present for the conversation and that it is now in the past.

Now for the Human Approach: The best thing you can do here? Don’t change the timecards; change the behavior going forward.

Addressing this behavior effectively calls for open, clear communication rather than unilateral adjustments to timecards. Engaging in a dialogue with employees about the expectations for clocking in and work hours sets a foundation of understanding and respect.

Explain the importance of aligning punch times with the start of work activities, emphasizing that the goal is to ensure fairness and transparency in how work hours are recorded and compensated.

For those employees engaging in work discussions or preparations, it’s essential to recognize this time as work. Conversely, set clear guidelines for activities considered non-work before the start of the official workday. It’s crucial to address this issue collectively, ensuring all employees understand what is expected of them and why these measures are in place.

Moreover, this approach allows for an opportunity to understand why employees might be clocking in early to eat breakfast at work. There might be underlying issues, such as scheduling or workplace facilities, that could be addressed to meet employees’ needs better and improve overall satisfaction and efficiency.

Question: We recently had a patient leave a scathing review on Google about a specific employee (mentioning them by name multiple times). I called and spoke to the patient about her experience and smoothed things over. I know I can’t ask her to remove the review, but do I still respond to the review on Google? If so, how do I do that without violating HIPAA?

The Legal Side of Things: First, it’s beneficial to check the review platform’s policies regarding mentions of staff members by name, as some platforms may restrict this to protect individuals’ privacy. If the platform’s policies are in your favor, you might have grounds to request the removal of the review on the basis of employee protection.

When it comes to responding to the review without breaching HIPAA regulations, the primary concern is avoiding the disclosure of any information that could confirm the individual’s status as a patient or reveal any protected health information (PHI).

HIPAA’s privacy rule is designed to safeguard patient information, and even well-intentioned responses can inadvertently lead to compliance issues if they imply acknowledgment of patient status or details of their care.

Remember AADOM members: You and your team can access complimentary HIPAA training here.

Now for the Human Approach: As a best practice, we recommend against responding to negative reviews online. Engaging with negative reviews, particularly those targeting specific employees, requires a thoughtful approach that considers the impact on your practice’s reputation, employee morale, and patient trust.

While it might be tempting to defend your practice and staff vigorously, such responses can sometimes be perceived as defensive, potentially exacerbating the situation.

If you choose to respond, aim for a generic, professional reply that acknowledges the feedback without confirming the reviewer’s patient status.

A simple statement such as, “Thank you for taking the time to share your feedback. We take all concerns seriously and strive to provide the highest quality care. We have addressed this matter directly” can be effective. This approach demonstrates to others that you are attentive and committed to improvement without violating privacy laws or engaging in a public debate.

However, if responding to reviews is not standard practice for your office, it may be best to refrain from responding to this specific review online. Consistency in how you engage with reviews can set expectations for both patients and staff.

Instead, focus on internal measures to address and learn from the feedback, ensuring that your practice continues to evolve and improve based on patient experiences.

For some extra credit listening on this topic, check out this episode of What the Hell Just Happened?! on viral employee terminations. We talk about how to handle not only employee terminations that get posted online but what to do with negative reviews from ex-employees as well!

 

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