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CASE STUDY

5 strategies to keep high-risk populations safe during disasters

 By Margarita Gil & Racquel Arden  The rapid spread of COVID-19 put healthcare institutions around the country on high alert, with special emphasis placed on those Americans deemed to be most vulnerable or with pre-existing conditions. But what happens when your entire hospital is filled with patients who fit that criteria? Such was the challenge faced at Totally Kids Rehabilitation Hospital. Serving children and their families for nearly half a century, Totally Kids provides complex medical care and treatment to children, adolescents and young adults who are recovering from physical trauma or surgery, have suffered catastrophic illness or who are dependent on technology. Programs include pediatric acute rehabilitation, pediatric subacute, and pediatric intermediate care. As soon as the coronavirus was barely a blip on anyone’s radar, it was apparent that… . . . 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.

COVID Q&A

5 questions on the virus and your medical office

By Lynne Curry  bio 1 Pushback from employees who choose to stay on unemployment Question: We didn’t expect the pushback we got from two of our furloughed employees when we called them back to work, particularly as we allow employees to work from home part of the workweek if their work can be accomplished remotely. One ignored two “return to work” emails but responded to a “work starts Monday” text with “thanks, but no thanks.” The other emailed he needed a raise if we wanted him back. We called him and said, “that’s not in the cards, we’re barely squeaking by.” He said he made more money on unemployment than working, so there was no real percentage in returning to work. What do we do with this? Answer: A condition… . . . read more.

Quiz

Office’s duty to protect returning employees from COVID-19 discrimination and harassment

SITUATION Fully recovered from his bout with COVID-19, Max is thrilled and excited to return to his custodian job after 14 days of mandatory home isolation. But almost immediately, he senses that something is wrong. His co-workers shun him and leave the room the moment he enters. And, while hygiene and handwashing are de rigueur for all maintenance staff, Max alone is required douse his hands in germicide and don rubber gloves each time he touches a piece of equipment. Worse, his supervisor harasses him and calls him “virus boy.” After weeks of putting up with it, Max complains to office management. But his complaints fall on deaf ears and he continues to be ostracized and made to take extraordinary safety and hygiene measures not required of anybody else. So,… . . . read more.

COMPLIANCE

What, if anything, does OSHA require you to do to protect telecommuters?

While telecommuting is nothing new, the imperative for using it has never been greater. In addition to all the cost-saving, work-life balance, recruiting and hiring advantages, letting employees work from home during a pandemic has become a vital infection control measure. But it also poses significant compliance challenges, particularly in the realm of OSHA. After all, how are you supposed to meet your duty to protect the health and safety of employees if they work from home at a location beyond your physical control? This article will provide the answer. Spoiler alert: OSHA requirements don’t generally extend to employees working from home; but you still can and should take some basic steps to ensure their health and safety. OSHA & telecommuters The Occupational Safety and Health Act (Section 4(a)) applies… . . . read more.

TOOL

Telecommuter home office hazard assessment & inspection checklist

While not an OSHA obligation, it’s highly advisable to take measures to protect the health and safety of telecommuting office employees who work from home. How? By having employees seeking approval to telecommute designate a room or area as their home workspace and arranging for somebody to perform a hazard assessment inspection to verify that the workspace is safe, healthy and appropriate for the proposed use. Option 1: Have an office supervisor or manager visit the site and do a physical walk-through inspection; Option 2: Have the employee videotape the space and/or submit detailed photos and a floor plan and do the inspection virtually; Option 3: Have the employee inspect the space himself/herself. Whoever does the assessment should use the Checklist below.

EMPLOYMENT LAW UPDATE

COVID, opioids and payroll taxes on HR radar

By Mike O’Brien bio  Applicants, testing, and screening The EEOC has said you cannot test applicants for COVID-19 until after a conditional job offer. Fine, makes sense. What about taking temperatures? You can take a temperature of visitors to your business/office to make sure they are not bringing COVID-19 with them. In fact, you may have an OSHA duty to do so to protect your workers from the pandemic. What about applicants visiting your office to apply to interview—can you subject them to the same temperature screening as all other visitors? Logic would say yes; but the EEOC guidance says no, you can only take an applicant’s temperature after a conditional job offer. Yet, a visiting applicant with COVID-19 could turn your office into a virus hot spot, thus attracting… . . . read more.

Tool: Model Mandatory Face Mask Policy

More than 20 states have enacted laws requiring the use of face masks or coverings in indoor public places, which would include workplaces like medical offices. Here’s a Model Policy incorporating current legal requirements and public health guidance that you can adapt for your own office.

COVID-19

Can my employer fire me for going to a bar or do I have any freedom left?

By Lynne Curry bio  Question: My employer sent a two-part email to every employee last week. “As you know we’ve had a local spike in COVID-19 infections. The health department has provided a list of the establishments, primarily bars, where COVID-19 individuals spent extended time. The health department asks that anyone who was in these businesses during these times monitor themselves for symptoms, check their temperatures twice daily for 14 days and avoid potentially exposing others who fall into high-risk categories for COVID-19 vulnerability. Please comply with this guidance.” That was okay, but then the email obligated me as an employee to offer up personal information. “We have learned that a bartender at (named) bar has tested positive and was serving customers on ____ date and between ____ p.m. and… . . . read more.

WORKPLACE SAFETY

Coworker exposed all of us to COVID-19

By Lynne Curry bio Question For weeks, “Carolyn” told the five of us in our department that she had allergies whenever any of us asked her about her sneezing. She worked with us in the same building, used the same copier, restroom and office fridge and handled the same coffeepot. I tried to avoid her because she kept forgetting her mask and didn’t seem to understand what six feet of separation meant. I saw that she didn’t use sanitizing wipes after she used the copier or coffeepot, so I wiped the copier before I used it and started bringing my own coffee from home. I didn’t talk with the others about this because I’m not a gossip. I regret that now. Because Carolyn’s and my job overlapped and I have… . . . read more.


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