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Practice Management

2012—What the Year Holds for Human Resources

by Sheila Grosdidier, BS, RVT, MCP
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    2012 will be a memorable year in the realm of employment, not only for a jobless economic recovery, but also for an array of changes in employment requirements and human resources challenges. As a practice manager or owner, you should be aware of these changes and how they affect your responsibilities. Let’s look at five you will be experiencing and what you can do to stay ahead of them.

    1. E-Verify. E-Verify is coming to a computer near you, and eventually, you may be required to use it. E-Verify is an online tool designed to replace the federal Form I-9 that most employers must currently use to verify an employee’s eligibility to work within the United States. Over the next 18 to 24 months, many states will move to completing this hiring requirement online.

    The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) oversees the determination of whether a person is eligible to work within the United States. Reciprocally, the US Department of Homeland Security is charged with stopping illegal employment. The use of E-Verify is a piece in the plan to address this issue. Individual states are moving toward compelling employers to use the service. So far, 17 states have legislation requiring the use of E-Verify. Arizona and Mississippi already mandate the use of E-Verify for all public and private employers; others, like Tennessee and Alabama, are in the process of phasing it in. In contrast, two states (California and Illinois) have limited employers’ use of the service. For a list of states that have addressed the use of E-Verify and their current requirements, click here.

    Want to know more about what E-Verify is and how it works? Visit the USCIS E-Verify home page or call 1-888-464-4218. The home page also provides a link to Self-Check, a program that allows potential employees to check their own eligibility online. Originally rolled out in just a few states, Self-Check was launched nationwide in February of this year. Check it out here.

    2. Rude and inappropriate worker behavior. Respondents in the Civility in America 2011 survey identified rudeness, or incivility, as a serious problem last year. Not only that, 55% of them believed that in the next few years, incivility in the United States will get worse1 (FIGURE 1). So, is this all about Charlie Sheen melting down on every television or politicians shouting obscenities across the podium? Unfortunately not. Employers are witnessing this issue as well. The American Psychological Association found that, in a study of nearly 300 employees, 86% of participants had experienced workplace incivility,2 which the Society for Human Resource Management defines as “rudeness, aggressive behavior, and inconsiderate acts or words that violate workplace convention.”

    Graphs

    Figure 1. Perceived incivility in the United States in 2011.

    As working with fewer team members to get the job done, carrying more responsibility with longer hours, and worrying about job security kick stress levels into high gear for many employees, the tendency to become impolite or unprofessional has continued to climb. When polite, respectful behavior is replaced by aggressive, angry words that are outside the realm of acceptable conduct, there are five proven actions that can help your practice avoid the loss of productivity, morale, and ultimately, team members. Here’s what to do:

    • Start at the top. Owners, managers, and supervisors must model the behavior they expect from others. They must be willing to demonstrate what is acceptable in the workplace. Simple, yes, but not always easy.
    • Talk about it. Situations that are unacceptable need to be discussed with the team members involved. Explain what is expected and what will not be tolerated. Intervening early on is easier than letting situations get out of hand.
    • Encourage team members to focus on work when they are at work. It’s difficult, but work may be one of the few places where people can go to get away from home stress and the problems of the outside world.
    • Don’t discount complaints. Take what you hear seriously, and respond to concerns from employees. When team members know that you have a genuine interest in helping them to resolve issues, communication improves, along with the willingness to maintain a civil workplace.
    • Make sure employees know the rules. Don’t assume that every team member knows what workplace civility is in word and in action. Different generations and a variety of backgrounds and experiences may create a wide range of what each individual sees as acceptable, civil behavior. Be clear about the standard for your veterinary practice.

    3. Facebook access. The Facebook mirror may be cracking. Laws, regulations, and fines will no doubt ensue as more employers seek greater access to the information available through social media. A growing number of employers have started to ask job candidates for their passwords to their personal Facebook accounts. Candidates have had their activities on Facebook evaluated for items as detailed as when they are posting information (could it have been on the previous employer’s time?) to an overall sense of what goes on between fellow team members or even the disclosure of confidential business information. During such an investigation of a potential employee’s personal account, employers may find themselves discovering information that is not acceptable to ask during the hiring process, such as religion, sexual orientation, or disability.

    Are employer investigations of personal social media a violation of the Fourth Amendment—among several other laws—or just a really bad idea? One thing is sure: veterinary practices would do well to tread very carefully in this area through 2012. California, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, and Minnesota have already proposed laws that will preclude this behavior.3 The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has stepped forward to lead the groundbreaking decisions of what will be acceptable employer practices with regard to employees and the Facebook domain.3 Employees should also note that not everything posted on social media sites is protected, and there have been more than a few court cases in which fired employees remained fired when the cases were settled. Caution on both sides is a good plan.

    4. Background checks. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, “nine out of 10 employers who are doing background checks include criminal history as part of the review.” On April 25, 2012, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) released guidance requirements on using arrest and conviction records in consideration of employment.4 The issue has prompted states such as New York to limit the criminal history information that can be used in consideration of hiring an employee. If a criminal history check is pertinent to the position a potential employee will occupy in the practice, you, as an employer or manager, need to be aware of your state’s laws regarding the use of any information you obtain.4 Fines are being enforced in cases where criminal information was used in a discriminatory manner. Pepsi Beverages Company recently paid a $3 million fine to settle a case involving the use of arrest records to screen potential employees.5 All employers are expected to follow the EEOC guidance, regardless of the number of employees.

    Credit information about potential employees is also an area in which caution is an excellent plan. The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) has established criteria on how credit information can be used in determining the hiring of a team member. Employers are required to let potential employees know that their credit history will be checked, and the candidate must sign a form agreeing to the check.6 The job candidate must also be told that a poor credit history does not automatically mean he or she will not be employed by the practice. More information on the FCRA can be found here.

    The hiring process will be a bit more challenging in 2012. While finding qualified candidates has been time consuming and indeed frustrating in many practices, spending the time to ensure that candidates truly are qualified will help you make good choices.

    5. The NLRB poster, possibly coming to a wall near you. In March 2012, the NLRB set forth a requirement that all employers must display a poster outlining employee rights under the National Labor Relations Act by April 30, 2012. However, on April 17, 2012, the US Circuit Court for the District of Columbia granted an emergency injunction, pending an appeal that challenges the NLRB’s authority to issue this rule. The court is scheduled to hear the appeal in September.7

    The poster specifically outlines the rights of employees to form a union, and if the NLRB rule is allowed to stand, veterinary practices, among other employers, will be required to display it. You can see the poster here.

    This poster decision was held up several times throughout 2011, and the battle over it is not likely to end anytime soon. As an employer, you are mandated to follow the requirement and watch what fireworks appear. A union concept in veterinary medicine appears to have rarely gotten ground under its feet. Would a poster change that? It’s something to ponder.

    ***

    If you are feeling a bit overwhelmed about the changes in employment for 2012, you are not alone. Thankfully, there is a wide variety of Web sites and toll-free numbers to assist you in keeping up with all the changes (BOX 1). Staying in touch with current issues, understanding the impact of change, and adapting in a way that makes the most sense for your business (and avoids penalties) are essential to ensure that your practice thrives in the future.

    Box 1. Employer Information Resources

    Interested in starting a drug-free workplace program or instituting pre-employment drug testing? This site will get you started. The US Department of Labor also has some great tools in its Drug-Free Workplace Advisor (http://www.dol.gov/elaws/drugfree.htm).

    This site includes a list of frequently asked questions about the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994, which applies to all public and private employers in the United States.

    Want to make sure that you are in line with what the federal regulations require for hourly employees when it comes to questions like how and when to calculate overtime, pay for breaks (or not), or pay for travel time to continuing education events? All the information you need can be found on this site. However, please note that this site only covers federal requirements and that each state also has rules governing hourly employees. You can use this link (http://www.dol.gov/dol/location.htm) to find contact information for your state’s requirements.

    See what the EEOC requires, the laws it enforces and who they apply to, how it handles charges of discrimination, and who you can talk to about any compliance questions you might have.

    The Job Accommodation Network can help you navigate the requirements for assessing disability in the workplace in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

    Get contact information for your local IRS office here.

    Trying to figure out what you have to do to meet OSHA requirements? Here is a great place to start.

    What you need to know about the laws affecting performing background checks on potential employees.

    Verify current or former employees’ social security numbers and get assistance with W-2s.

    References

    1. Weber Shandwick. Civility in America 2011. http://www.webershandwick.com/resources/ws/flash/CivilityinAmerica2011.PDF. Accessed April 26, 2012.

    2. Jayson S. At work, no more Mr. Nice Guy. USA Today August 7, 2011. http://www.usatoday.com/NEWS/usaedition/2011-08-08-Workplace-Incivility----_ST_U.htm. Accessed April 26, 2012.

    3. Alim-Young D. NLRB weighs in on social networking—“the Facebook complaint.” NLRB Insight February 8, 2011. http://www.nlrbinsight.com/2011/02/nlrb-weighs-in-on-social-networking-the-facebook-complaint/. Accessed April 26, 2012.

    4. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Consideration of arrest and conviction records in employment decisions under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. http://www.eeoc.gov/laws/guidance/arrest_conviction.cfm. Effective April 25, 2012. Accessed April 26, 2012.

    5. Hananel S. Pepsi Beverages pays $3M in racial bias case. USA Today January 11, 2012. http://www.usatoday.com/money/industries/food/story/2012-01-11/pepsi-racial-bias-case/52498132/1.Accessed April 26, 2012.

    6. Federal Trade Commission. Employment background checks and credit reports. Published May 2010. http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/credit/cre36.shtm. Accessed April 26, 2012.

    7. Smith A. NLRB posting rule blocked. http://www.shrm.org/LegalIssues/FederalResources/Pages/CourtStrikesDownRule.aspx?homepage=latestnews. Published April 16, 2012. Accessed April 26, 2012.

    didyouknow

    Did you know... According to the November 2009 issue of Money magazine, veterinarians were ranked fourth on the list of jobs likely to grow in 10 years in the United States.Read More

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