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A manager tries to hold it all together during Omnicron surge

By Lynne Curry “I’m overwhelmed,” the manager said when he called. “Senior management pressures us to maintain high levels of productivity, but nearly a fourth of our employees call in sick every morning. On our last all-manager Zoom call, our CEO said our productivity is down and made it clear we’re expected to handle our employees’ anxiety and get them refocused on their work.” “What about my stress? Every time an employee pokes his head in my door, I know I’ll hear a complaint or get handed a resignation. Omicron sent us all into a tailspin. I supervise employees who fear they risk infection every day they come to work. And I’m supposed to convince them to work harder? Do you have a magic bullet?” Supervisors in the vise You’re… . . . read more.

EMPLOYMENT LAW UPDATE

Supreme Court to hear challenges to OSHA & CMS vaccination mandates this week

By Mike O’Brien On Dec. 17, 2021, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals dissolved the stay of OSHA’s vaccine mandate for employers with 100 or more employees in a split 2-1 decision. Wasting no time, OSHA published a compliance update to provide new deadlines. Covered employers have through Jan. 10, 2022, to adopt and publish a vaccination policy, to ascertain and record employee vaccination status, and to implement a masking requirement for all unvaccinated employees. Employers have through Feb. 9, 2022, to begin collection of negative weekly COVID tests from unvaccinated employees. You’ll find that compliance update, and compliance resources, on OSHA’s website. Opponents of the vaccination mandate filed immediate challenges with the United States Supreme Court. On Dec. 22, 2021, the Supreme Court issued an order that it would hear oral arguments… . . . read more.

COMPLIANCE

What to do if an employee defies your mandatory vaccination policy

Mandatory vaccination policies have become a touchstone issue for employers in just about every industry. And all of this begs a question of crucial importance: What should you do when employees defy your medical office’s mandatory vaccination policy? Your choices: Terminate them immediately Accommodate them immediately None of the above The answer is C, none of the above. It’s not that termination and accommodation aren’t valid options; it’s the word “immediately” that makes them the wrong choice. The 2 things to do when employees refuse mandatory vaccination Here’s what you should do if one of your employees refuses to comply with your mandatory vaccination policy. Step 1: Find Out Why They Won’t Get Vaccinated Before the pandemic, mandatory vaccination policies were rare and limited to sensitive sectors like health care… . . . read more.

COMPLIANCE

Are religious exemptions a way out for employees or a tricky challenge for employers?

By Lynne Curry Question: If I’m to believe the stack of religious exemptions on my desk, a miracle unfolded in our company last week. Within days of announcing our mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy, 90 percent of our unvaccinated employees found religion. I’m holding a dozen exemption requests that use an identical phrase, “This mandate directly affects my religious beliefs. The Bible tells me my body is a temple.” I suspect the few unvaccinated employees who haven’t yet claimed a religious exemption didn’t see what one of our employees helpfully posted next to the breakroom coffeepot. It says employees can refuse vaccinations because vaccines interfere with divine providence. What can we do? My HR officer and I understand we’re obligated to “reasonably accommodate” sincerely held religious beliefs. Except—if we accommodate these… . . . read more.

EMPLOYMENT LAW UPDATE

Who knew vaccine requirements could be so much fun?

By Mike O’Brien  As you might recall, in one of our previous updates we cautioned that implementing workplace-vaccination requirements could be a bit tricky. It turns out, we were right—just ask the federal government. On Nov. 5, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued an Interim Final Rule regulating healthcare facilities (“Vaccination IFR”). The Vaccination IFR—which applies to most (but not all) healthcare facilities subject to CMS’s health and safety requirements—obliges covered businesses to develop and implement policies to (1) ensure that all staff is fully vaccinated against COVID-19; (2) track employee vaccination status, including boosters; and (3) grant and track vaccination exemptions, including those based on applicable federal law (e.g., the ADA and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act), or recognized clinical contraindications to COVID-19 vaccines… . . . read more.

MANAGING STAFF

Will employees resign rather than get vaccinated?

By Lynne Curry Many anti-vax employees threaten to quit when their employers announce they’re considering a vaccination mandate. This shakes the confidence of employers considering vaccination mandates. What’s the truth? Many employees remain vaccine skeptics; more than a third of U.S. adults remain unvaccinated. But do they quit if told their job depends on it? It depends on the industry and it’s fewer than you think. You’ll find employees who refuse vaccines for a variety of heartfelt reasons. Some don’t want to have anyone mandate a personal health decision. Others have heard stories about individuals who’ve experienced vaccine complications, overlooking that many have died, become gravely ill, or continue experiencing long-term complications from COVID-19 because the disease caught them before they became vaccinated. Many hospital workers can tell real-life stories… . . . read more.

COMPLIANCE

Feds crack down on telemedicine and COVID-19 fraud

Telemedicine was a minor but growing blip on the enforcement radar before the public health emergency. But with the dramatic step up in utilization during the COVID-19 pandemic, it was all but inevitable that schemes involving telemedicine fraud would command more of the Department of Justice’s attention. So, the agency’s September announcement of its latest nationwide telemedicine crackdown should come as no surprise. DOJ telemedicine enforcement actions by the numbers Here are some of the key numbers documenting the initiative, which doesn’t yet have a nickname a la last October’s “Operation Rubber Stamp,” the third telemedicine takedown undertaken by the DOJ since 2019: 31: The number of federal districts involved in the most recent initiative; 138: The number of defendants who’ve been criminally charged, including 42 doctors, nurses and other… . . . read more.

MANAGING STAFF

Employees say job pressures take bigger mental toll than COVID-19 fears

Managers, take note: As the pandemic drags on, the mental health of your staffers may be deteriorating as new survey results would suggest. In a recent survey, 57 percent of workers surveyed say their mental health has degraded since the start of the pandemic. The driving factor behind this decline: their workload. In fact, work pressures are so great that half of respondents say work demands are taking a bigger toll on their mental health than COVID-19. What’s more, the survey reveals a stark gender divide. Women are disproportionately suffering from work-related pressures—at more than 1.5 times the rate of their male counterparts. This is likely due to the combined pressure of work and home life. The survey, conducted by The Conference Board,  examines the declining mental health of workers… . . . read more.

MANAGING THE OFFICE

Fear of COVID-19, demand for flexibility dominate return to the office

As the Delta variant continues to proliferate, 42 percent of workers are worried about returning to the workplace for fear of contracting COVID-19. This marks a substantial jump to Sept. 1 from June 2021 when only 24 percent had that concern. “With headlines about the rise of the Delta variant, breakthrough cases among the vaccinated, and an overburdened healthcare system in much of the country, COVID-19 concerns that were subsiding just two months ago have risen,” said Rebecca Ray, PhD, Executive Vice President of Human Capital at The Conference Board. Conducted in August by The Conference Board, the new survey captured the thoughts of more than 2,400 US workers on topics including return-to-work anxiety, factors driving them to pursue new job opportunities, opinions about remote work, and more. The survey… . . . read more.

EMPLOYMENT LAW UPDATE

New technical guidance on religious exemptions to vaccination

By Mike O’Brien EEOC Issues New Technical Guidance on Religious Exemptions to Vaccine Mandates On Oct. 25 the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued new updates to its Covid-19 technical guidance. Specifically, the EEOC seeks to clarify employer obligations and employee rights related to religious exemptions to vaccine mandates. The guidance addresses the following questions: Does the employee need to use “magic words” to request an accommodation? Like requests for accommodation of a disability under the ADA, requests for religious accommodation need not use particular words or phrases like “religious accommodation” or “reasonable accommodation.” Instead, they simply need to communicate that there is a conflict between a sincerely held religious belief and a work requirement (such as a vaccine mandate). The EEOC notes that an employee may also have a religious… . . . read more.


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