Last month, two members of MedHQ’s leadership team hosted a presentation as part of the ASCA’s 2018 Webinar Series. In a webinar titled, “Tackle the Top Five Human Resources Risk Events,” Tom Jacobs, CEO, and Rita Hernandez-Figi, VP, Human Resources Services highlighted strategies for handling the most difficult human resources (HR) challenges facing ASCs:

1. FMLA and ADA interactions
2. Workers’ compensation claims
3. Sexual harassment
4. General harassment and hostile work environments
5. Involuntary terminations

These situations are significant because, if handled improperly, they can have long-lasting negative effects, including financial losses, a damaged organizational culture, and distracted or distressed employees and managers.

Guided by their years of HR experience, Jacobs and Hernandez-Figi outlined the best practices around:

• Preventive measures to avoid high-risk HR events
• Strategies for mitigating risk if one of these events does occur
• Timelines for reaching out to HR experts
• Ways to minimize the impact on the rest of the organization, particularly other employees

An important takeaway for all of these events is that early notification is paramount; employees should be encouraged to let their supervisors know about a small problem before it becomes a bigger one. This is key to resolving situations in the most amicable way possible.

What are best practices for mitigating the risk of FMLA/ADA events (including those that involve workplace injuries and workers’ compensation insurance claims)?

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) are closely linked, and managers must know how they interact and overlap – particularly when they involve an injury that occurs at work.

The FMLA is a federal law that offers certain employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave per year, while the ADA exists to protect people with disabilities from discrimination. For employers and supervisors, it’s important to know whether an event involves an FMLA claim, an ADA claim or both. The questions they should ask to get to the heart of the issue are:

• How is the organization going to work with this employee?
• What is an accurate job description? What are the required day-to-day functions (i.e., “Essential Functions”) of this position? Can some of these be amended or covered by others?
• What reasonable accommodations can be made?
These complicated questions frequently come up as an employee is reaching the end of the 12-week FMLA period, and disability accommodation is up for discussion. This is often the time when managers make mistakes that can put ASCs at risk for claims of discrimination. These problems can be avoided with early and well-documented communication between the manager and the employee and other stakeholders.

What are best practices for mitigating the risk of claims of sexual harassment, general harassment or a hostile work environment?

When it comes to harassment – whether it’s sexual or general in nature – the main questions leaders should ask are:

• What is respectful behavior in the workplace?
• What is an inappropriate demand or request?
• Are people being treated differently because of their gender (or another characteristic)?
• Does this negatively affect the work environment?
• What are the values of this organization, and how are they modeled every day?

Inappropriate behavior must be addressed immediately. Sometimes a short private conversation with an employee is enough to stop the problem. Sometimes it is necessary to put more official protocols into effect to prevent a hostile work environment from developing. An ASC needs an employee handbook that details everything from the steps to report a claim of harassment, to consequences for different offenses.

What are best practices for mitigating the risk of problems following involuntary terminations?

When an employee’s behavior or performance is having a negative impact on the organization, managers must have a clear list of steps to follow. Often this is alerting them that they must improve in specific areas in a set amount of time, then following up at intervals. And if the employee doesn’t make changes, an involuntary termination may be required.

Following the termination of an employee, managers must quickly inform the remaining staff – not going into detail about the circumstances, but outlining clear next steps. Since employees will often need to take on additional temporary responsibilities after a termination, management should also have a staff recruitment and referral program ready to execute.

Learn more about MedHQ’s human resources expertise in ASCs.

To listen to “Tackle the Top Five Human Resources Risk Events, click here.