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Probation Period

Does an employer have the right to terminate an employee without a signed 90 day probationary period Agreement? If so are they required to give a written explanation for the termination?

Absent an employment contract or collective bargaining agreement stating otherwise, employers are within their rights to terminate an employee with or without a probation period. Additionally, most states have at-will employment doctrines. Meaning, either the employer or employee can terminate the employment relationship at any time without cause. Of course, an employer may not terminate an employee based on discrimination against protected characteristics including gender, sex/pregnancy, genetic information, disability, age (over 40), national origin, race/color, or citizenship status.

There are no states that I’m aware of that require an employer to provide an employee with a written explanation for termination. Such a requirement is usually mandated by an employment contract or collective bargaining agreement, not law.
Feel free to repost your question with the state and we can research applicable state law.

April 17th, 2015, 9:17 PM |  Posted in: Human Resources Management |
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I’m working for Home Health Care company in Human Resources. I received a call from an insurance company for a client asking for the date the client was admitted and released from the hospital. Can I give this info or do I need permission from the client to release info?

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) mandates that covered entities comply with requirements to protect the privacy and security of health information. A covered entity is an individual or organization that uses and/or exchanges confidential medical data. Common covered entities include doctors, clinics, company health plans and government programs that pay for healthcare.

The HIPAA Privacy Rule protects “individually identifiable health information”, including data that relates to:
• an individual’s past, present or future physical or mental health or condition,
• the provision of health care to an individual, or
• the past, present, or future payment for the provision of health care to an individual;
and data that identifies an individual or for which there is a reasonable basis to believe it can be used to identify an individual. Individually identifiable health information includes many common identifiers (e.g., name, address, birth date, Social Security Number).

It’s difficult to answer your question without clarifying information. Is the “client” an employee of your company or an individual that receives services from your company?

If the individual is an employee, then an insurance company such as your worker’s comp carrier may justly need the information. However, the insurance carrier of an employer sponsored health plan or a third party provider shouldn’t be requesting such information. It’s advisable to refer the insurance company to the employee directly in this case.

If the individual is an actual client receiving services from your company, I would question why an insurance company is contacting Human Resources and not the Admissions/Agency Records/Billing Department. Typically, HR is responsible for employee records not client records.

As uncommon as it is, if you are responsible for client records, then it’s appropriate and necessary to ask why the company needs the information. If you have any doubt to the company’s validity or need for the information, ask them to send you a request in writing or contact the client directly. In my experience, HR never releases information regarding a client.

April 17th, 2015, 9:06 PM |  Posted in: Human Resources Management, Labor Laws |
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Employee Survey Feedback Methodology

What are some ways that HR departments track and analyze feedback from employees, specifically pre & post training surveys? Is there a specific methodology to simple and clear feedback analysis?

Surveys are a great tool to solicit employee opinions on a variety of issues such as the company’s ability to communicate its mission to employees or more local issues such as an employee’s job satisfaction. The feedback obtained is essential in measuring the impact of company policies/procedures, assessing training needs, implementing organizational change, and ensuring employees are and continue to be engaged and satisfied in their positions. Thus, effectively analyzing survey results is crucial to the success of an employee survey.

The methodology for analyzing results depends on how feedback is solicited, specifically the forms of the responses. Typically, a 5 point scale is used, such as strongly agree | agree | neither agree nor disagree | disagree | strongly disagree. When using such a scale, it’s fairly easy to analyze results. Otherwise, asking open ended questions repeatedly will lead to an abundance of information that is difficult to sort through, let alone conduct a comparative analysis.

It’s common for larger agencies to enlist the services of a survey provider. Depending on the breadth of the survey and how much work you’re willing to put in yourself, these services can be fairly inexpensive. Often times, the feedback analysis is provided at no extra cost. With the analysis, you can filter and compare data easily.

Smaller companies may be more likely to utilize excel to compile data. The data can then be used in a pivot table or similar function to be analyzed.

The wording of the questions are just as important as analyzing the data. Make sure questions are clear and easily understood. Also, ensure the questions solicit the feedback you’re interested in obtaining. For training surveys, you may want to know the quality of the training, performance of the instructor and knowledge/skill learned.

Lastly, when reviewing results consider the areas that received the lowest ratings as well as those that received the highest. Lower scoring areas need to be addressed while considering what aspects of the higher scoring areas can be used elsewhere. Also, consider if there is a unified feeling on a particular topic from employees of similar demographics (department/age/ethnicity).

I hope this answers your question! Please feel free to post another question or comment on this one for more information.


2 FMLA leaves

Can an employee have 2 concurrent FMLA’s leaves at the same time? I have an employee that is taking intermittent leave for her own serious health condition, but is asking if she can take intermittent FMLA for her child as well.

The Family & Medical Leave Act (FMLA) entitles eligible employees of covered employers to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave in a 12 month period for specified family and medical reasons. Such reasons include for the birth or placement of a child, to care for oneself or an immediate family member with a serious health condition, or any qualifying exigency arising out of the fact that the employee’s immediate family member is a covered military member on active duty.

FMLA leave can be taken all at once, intermittently or on a reduced leave schedule. Intermittent leave is FMLA leave taken in separate blocks of time. Under the FMLA, employers must grant intermittent leave to an employee to care for oneself or an immediate family member with a serious health condition.

So, an employee currently taking intermittent FMLA leave for her own serious health condition is also entitled to take intermittent FMLA leave at the same time to care for her child with a serious health condition.

The FMLA defines serious health condition broadly to include any illness, injury, impairment, or physical or mental condition that involves either inpatient care or continuing treatment by a health care provider. Obvious examples of conditions generally covered by the FMLA include chronic health conditions like asthma, diabetes, and epilepsy that require ongoing treatment. However, minor conditions such as a cold or earache are not covered under the FMLA.

Employers are permitted to request medical certification to verify the employee’s need for leave for her own and her child’s serious health conditions. Such certifications should indicate that intermittent leave is necessary and the expected duration of such leave.

Additionally, make sure the employee is aware, preferably in writing, that both eligible situations are counted towards her 12 week leave entitlement.

April 17th, 2015, 7:47 PM |  Posted in: Benefits, Labor Laws |
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Use-It-Or-Lose-It policy for MN

Can an employer offer PTO and have a use-it-or-lose-it policy? Can an employer deny an employee’s request for paid time off and still not have to pay said employee the PTO that was earned in the state of MN?

There is neither Minnesota nor federal law that requires employers to provide employees with paid time off (PTO). Such a benefit is a matter of agreement between employers and employees. In most states, including Minnesota, employers are able to adopt PTO policies of their choosing. However, in Minnesota, an employer is obligated to comply with the terms of its PTO policy.

Use-it-or-lose-it policies or caps on accruals are permissible in Minnesota. It’s advised that such policies be in writing.

Additionally, an employer is able to deny PTO requests of its employees as long as such denials are not based on protected characteristics of an individual. Discrimination of employees based on protected characteristics such as gender, pregnancy, disability, age (over 40), national origin, race/color and religion is illegal.

Minnesota employers are not expressly required to pay out unused PTO at separation. However, as stated above, employers must comply with their established practice or policy. Thus, it’s important for employers to have clear PTO policies.

April 17th, 2015, 7:16 PM |  Posted in: Benefits, Labor Laws |
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