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Model waiver of COVID-19 infection liability sign to post at your medical office

As long as COVID-19 remains a threat, you run the risk of being sued by clients, vendors, guests and other visitors (“visitors”) who claim they contracted the virus at your office facility as a result of your inadequate safety measures. One way to limit liability is by conspicuously posting a sign at the entry of your facility indicating visitors’ agreement to waive their rights to sue you for COVID-19 infections by entering the office. Although there’s no guarantee that a court would enforce such a waiver, the Model Sign below uses fairly conservative language that has been found to be enforceable in other situations. Caveat: The inclusion of the phrase purporting to insulate you against your own negligence in Sections 3 and 4 is fairly risky and you may want… . . . read more.

MEDICAL RECORDS

5 lessons learned From 5 HIPAA fines in one day

By Danika Brinda bio The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) hit a new record on Sept. 15, 2020—five HIPAA Fines with Corrective Action Plans in one day. The fines and corrective action plans had one main theme in common—not supplying patients with a copy of requested medical records in a timely fashion. The other thing of note from the action of the OCR is that these were not large multi-million dollar fines that are based on data breaches. These were fines that ranged from $3,500–$70,000 and were all based on a patient making a complaint to the federal government, which upon investigation, lead to the findings of noncompliance with HIPAA and patient’s rights defined by HIPAA. 5 lessons learned: Patients have a right… . . . read more.

Employment Law Update

OSHA says cloth face coverings are not “PPE”

By Mike O’Brien bio In an update to its FAQ, OSHA has stated that cloth face coverings do not constitute personal protective equipment (PPE). According to OSHA, there isn’t enough information currently available to determine if a particular cloth face covering provides sufficient protection from the coronavirus hazard to be PPE under OSHA’s standard. OSHA’s determination is consistent with statements made by the CDC. This determination means that OSHA’s PPE standards do not require employers to provide cloth face coverings to employees. However, OSHA strongly encourages workers to wear face coverings when in close contact with others to reduce the risk of spreading the coronavirus, if it is appropriate for the work environment. In addition, OSHA recommends that employers encourage workers to wear face coverings at work and even says… . . . read more.

KICKBACKS

OIG issues fraud alert on pharmaceutical company in-person speaker programs

Before the pandemic put the chill on live conference events, it was fairly common for pharmaceutical companies, device makers and diagnostics companies to offer healthcare professionals fees for in-person speaking appearances. Such practices raise red flags under the federal Anti-Kickback Statute (AKS) when those speakers recommend the products of those companies to their patients. So, on Nov. 16, the OIG issued a Special Fraud Alert warning companies about restarting in-person paid healthcare professional speaker programs when COVID-19 restrictions lift. OIG Skepticism of Speaker Fees Program Federal government suspicion of paid speaker programs, especially by pharmaceutical companies, is nothing new. For example, Novartis recently agreed to pay $678 million to settle a seven-year-long legal battle with the OIG over allegations of using its speaker programs as a way to disguise bribes to… . . . read more.

EMPLOYMENT LAW UPDATE

How HR regulations could change under Biden administration

By Mike O’Brien bio Employers may be wondering how a Biden administration will affect workplace laws. Prior to the election, Biden’s campaign website gives some clues as to his priorities in this area. Biden lists the failure to pay minimum wage and overtime pay, forcing off-the-clock work, and misclassifying workers as problems resulting in billions of dollars a year in wage theft. To address those issues, he proposes a phased-in implementation of a $15 per hour federal minimum wage (including eliminating the tip credit). He also supports the adoption of a more stringent test for classifying workers as independent contractors, similar to the ABC test employed by California. This type of test would almost certainly result in many more workers being deemed employees and fewer being properly classified as independent… . . . read more.

Can we use a contact tracing app to protect our business and employees?

By Lynne Curry bio Question: Every morning we conduct wellness checks on our employees as they arrive at work, but worry that some employees don’t monitor physical distancing when not at work. We’re barely hanging on as a practice, but all it would take is one employee getting COVID and infecting our other employees to shut us down. We have heard apps can provide real-time contact tracing and wonder if we can require our employees to wear them even when not at work? Answer: Potentially. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, employers must act to reduce and manage COVID-19-related hazards in the workplace. Employers can view video surveillance that shows when employees clock in and out and reveal an employee’s interactions while at work. Employers can provide employees… . . . read more.

Do employers owe employees paid sick leave when they self-quarantine?

By Lynne Curry bio Question: After I spent a weekend bar hopping, I felt remorseful, and self-quarantined so I wouldn’t bring COVID into my workplace and make others ill. I also took a COVID test and luckily tested negative. Since my employer had moved everyone back on-site, I couldn’t work remotely and labeled my time off as sick leave. I just got my paycheck and apparently my employer has denied my sick leave. What’s my recourse? Answer: The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) allows most private sector employees up to 80 hours of paid sick leave in five instances. A health care provider advises the employee to self-quarantine; the employee is seeking a diagnosis for COVID-19 symptoms; the employee or someone the employee is caring for is under a… . . . read more.

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Model Substance Abuse and Fitness for Duty Policy

Workplace substance abuse remains a major challenge for workplades. Although sound in principle, the traditional zero tolerance policy is ill-suited to the legal complexities of the modern world. This is especially true in states that have legalized marijuana. You can still take a clear and firm line on employee drug and alcohol abuse for the purpose of health and safety. But the policy also has to exhibit finesse and sensitivity to legal subtleties. One of the best ways to create an enforceable policy is to base it not on the legality of substance abuse but the undisputable fact that it renders employees unfit for duty to the detriment of safety. Here’s a Model Policy you can adapt.

COMPLIANCE

How to Create a Legally Sound Substance Abuse Policy

Bottom Line on Top: Make it all about fitness for duty, rather than zero tolerance Although it may sound good, zero tolerance may not be the best foundation on which to build a legally enforceable workplace substance abuse policy. This is especially true in states that have legalized recreational marijuana. The reason drug and alcohol use and impairment in the workplace cannot be tolerated isn’t so much that it’s illegal, but because it renders employees unfit to do their job. In addition to undermining the productivity you’re entitled to expect from your employees, this unfitness for duty may pose a health and safety dangers to not only the employee who’s high but others in the office. Here are 14 things to include in your Substance Abuse and Fitness for Duty… . . . read more.

COMPLIANCE

How to create a legally sound COVID-19 medical screening policy

 As essential workplaces, medical offices need to remain open and operating during the pandemic. At the same time, they need to ensure that employees practice social distancing and keep the infected and potentially infected away from the well. Like so many other companies facing the same challenge, you may be considering medically screening your employees each day before letting them into the workplace. While screening is highly problematic in normal times, regulators have grudgingly acknowledged that it may be a justified health and safety measure during the pandemic. The operative phrase is “may be,” which means that limits still apply. As office manager, you need to recognize and ensure keep your facility in compliance with those limits. Here’s how. Three ways COVID-19 screening can get your office into legal hot… . . . read more.


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