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Missed Time Clock punches

This is regarding Massachusetts. We have a problem with employees remembering to punch in and out. Some miss lunch punches and others miss start or end of shift punches. This is becoming a major annoyance when processing payroll. What type of disciplinary action would be appropriate to resolve this issue.

Under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, employers are required to maintain accurate payroll records including the hours worked each day for non-exempt employees. This can be difficult to accomplish when employees forget to punch in/out.

Employers have an obligation to ensure time worked is recorded. Thus, employers should adopt a policy stating the employees’ responsibility to punch in/out, what procedure to follow if a punch is forgotten and the consequences of violating the policy. If such a policy doesn’t exist, it’s advisable to create one and distribute it to all staff. Remember, policies should be clear and easily understood.

Appropriate disciplinary action includes a verbal warning for first time offenders. Inform the employee of the issue, your expectations going forward and consequences for another occurrence. Most employees just need one or two reminders/warnings. Also, once a few employees are counseled on the matter then word normally spreads to other employees.

Continuous offenders should receive a written warning. Include the times that were not punched, reiterate the policy and be firm that continued similar behavior will result in further disciplinary actions. Several written warnings within a short time frame would warrant an investigation as to why the same employee is having so many issues with timekeeping. You may find additional performance issues that need to be addressed. For example, an employee who continually forgets to punch in to work may be trying to hide his tardiness. Usually, an employee who continues to have issues punching in/out also has other performance issues.

It’s also important to note that even when a non-exempt employee forgets to punch in/out the employer is required to ascertain the hours worked and pay the employee appropriately. If the employer has no way of knowing the actual hours worked, the employer must pay the employee for the hours he said he worked. The employer still has the right to discipline the employee as appropriate.


Vacation Policy

I would welcome thoughts on allowing staff to schedule a vacation day for the day after a public holiday such as Christmas or news years. In a small or large business, would you allow it? Thanks, Michelle

Hi Michelle,

Allowing staff to request vacation time for the day after a holiday completely depends on business operations and company culture. Absent a collective bargaining agreement or employment contract stating otherwise, employers are free to establish vacation policies of their choosing. Such policies can include blackout periods/dates during which employees may not request vacation time. For example, companies in the retail industry often prohibit employees from taking vacation time during November and December due to business demands.

Keep in mind that a vacation policy with restricted use during the holiday season may decrease employee morale. So, it’s best to evaluate the need and impact of such a policy. Will the business really suffer if employees are allowed to take off after a holiday? If vacation use is restricted, how will employees react?
Some businesses decide to close completely for the days after Thanksgiving and

Christmas to allow employees extra time with friends and family. Doing so shows an employer’s gratitude for the work accomplished and provides an extra benefit to employees.

Again, it totally depends on the business need. Generally, it’s fairly common to allow employees to request vacation time for the day after a holiday.

December 11th, 2014, 2:54 PM |  Posted in: Benefits, Human Resources Management |
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HIPAA Violation

If a person is an Outsourced Operations Manager with no Human Resource experience but has been given access to employee Personal Health Assessment (that they did or did not have done) and they have not had HIPAA training…..does this not violate HIPAA? This person is also going to be the only source that the district clinic can go through….again no HIPPA training.

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) mandates that covered entities must 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 demographic data, that relates to:
• the individual’s past, present or future physical or mental health or condition,
• the provision of health care to the individual, or
• the past, present, or future payment for the provision of health care to the individual,

and that identifies the individual or for which there is a reasonable basis to believe it can be used to identify the individual. Individually identifiable health information includes many common identifiers (e.g., name, address, birth date, Social Security Number).

Under HIPAA, covered entities must train all workforce members, including employees, trainees, agents, volunteers and contractors, regarding its security policies and procedures as necessary and appropriate for them to perform their job duties. Covered entities are also required to conduct an analysis of the potential risks and vulnerabilities as part of its security management process.

Thus, assuming you’re a covered entity and the Operations Manager will have access to individually identifiable health information, adequate training would be required. Failure to comply with requirements under the Privacy Rule may result in costly fines.

December 11th, 2014, 1:45 PM |  Posted in: Benefits, Human Resources Management, Labor Laws |
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Excessive Absenteeism

I have a very small staff of five. Two of these employees are new and in their 90 probation period. So far 1 of the new employees has called in 2 sick twice and missed 1.5 days due to a leak in her roof. The other has missed a partial day that was requested in advance for a personal appt, and then has called in sick 3 times, and has been 15 minutes late twice. I realize a lot of sickness is going around, but my concern is this is just the beginning of a possible problem. Need some advice on how to address the issue in the appropriate manner. Since I only have a staff of 5, if I lose 2 before I can rehire I will be in dire straits.

Your concern is legitimate. However, as you mentioned, there is a lot of illness circulating this time of year. The last thing you need is a sick employee coming to work and infecting the entire office.

The best course of action is to meet with both employees individually. Tell them that although you don’t want to discourage them from staying home when their sick, you’re concerned with their excessive absences so soon after being hired.Explain that being such a small company when even one person is out of the office it disrupts the business.

Tardiness should be addressed in a similar manner. Inform the employee that she’s expected to arrive to the office on time and ready to work. Again, explain that being such a small company when just one person is not performing well it affects the whole business.

It’s important to be direct and clear with your expectations to both employees. Simply having a conversation alerts the employees that you’re paying attention to their actions. Usually, this is enough to resolve this issue.

If the excessive absences or tardiness continues and/or other performance issues arise, make sure to deal with them directly and immediately.


Layoff vs Fire

Is a downsizing/layoff the same as a firing for job application purposes?

Employers request applicants to complete job applications prior to being considered for employment. Job applications often request applicants to disclose why they left their prior employers.

Firing or terminating an employee is different than laying off an employee. Firing refers to separating an employee for any reason whereas laying off an employee or downsizing refers to separating an employee due to economic/business reasons.

December 8th, 2014, 12:41 PM |  Posted in: Human Resources Management |
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