By Paul Edwards bio
Springtime may mean that love is in the air, but your office can’t hesitate to dump a policy that creates problems. Some policies are so blatantly unenforceable, they shouldn’t even have gotten past the first date! If any of these are in your employee handbook, it’s time to say, “Let’s not even be friends anymore.”
#1: “Employee salaries are confidential, and should not be discussed.”
Federal labor laws allow employees to discuss many aspects of their working conditions, including pay. You may personally know of other offices with a policy like this, but don’t be fooled – that doesn’t mean it’s legal. And all it takes to get you in trouble is one employee who knows their rights, or any lawyer who glances through your policies.
#2. “Workplace gossip is harmful and will not be tolerated.”
This policy violates the same labor laws as the first. Although it doesn’t specifically ban talking about working conditions, it’s so vague it could easily be interpreted as banning it. For example, would two employees discussing an unpopular change in the office be gossiping? Don’t let an employee lawsuit answer that question for you!
#3. “Unauthorized overtime will not be paid.”
It’s fine to require employees to get authorization before working extra time. In fact, that’s a smart policy to have. The problem here is not paying an employee for hours they have already worked, which is illegal. You can discipline someone who works overtime without permission, but you still need to pay them for it.
#4. “Upon termination, you must return all company property prior to receiving your final paycheck.”
Almost all states have laws specifying a required timeframe for issuing final paychecks. Even in the few states without final paycheck rules, an employee can still file a complaint with the Department of Labor if they feel you are unfairly delaying the process or denying them pay. Responding to a complaint will be a time-consuming headache you don’t need, so pay the employee and handle any other issues separately.
#5. “Employees are only paid to attend seminars or training when they happen on work days.”
Many employers get this one wrong. For time spent at an event to be truly OFF the clock, it must meet ALL of these requirements:
- The time must be outside of normal business hours. (Not days!)
- The time must be voluntary.
- The activity must be unrelated to the employee’s job and does not benefit them.
- The employee must do no productive work during the time.
Some states have stricter laws. Regardless, very few situations truly qualify as unpaid time, so it’s best to just assume the time must be paid. (There is an exception for maintaining certification, IF your practice isn’t requiring training on a certain schedule. And associate doctors, physical therapists, and similar professionals are exempt from these rules.)
Of course, this list is not exhaustive. But as the office manager, it may be up to you to alert your doctor if your office is using policies that don’t stand up to scrutiny. If you are worried about an iffy office policy breaking your heart, consult a qualified employment law expert for further advice.
Paul Edwards is the CEO of CEDR Solutions (www.cedrsolutions.com), the nation’s leading provider of customized medical employee handbooks and expert HR support for practices of all sizes and specialties. He can be reached at 866-414-6056 or email@example.com.
The above information is shared by a guest contributor and does not necessarily reflect the views of Medical Office Manager.