HR Base Camp Roundup – February 27th

In this week’s edition of the HR Base Camp roundup – What should you do when some of your employees have asked if they can bring a gun to work? Also, when negotiating salaries with job applicants, are you allowed to ask for proof of their previous salary? Finally, what are your liabilities as an employer if your employees start caring for a litter of stray puppies that live behind your office? Read on for answers!

Here are the HR Q&As from our HR Base Camp Facebook Group and HR Solution Center:

 

We have a promising hygienist candidate but they’re asking for a higher hourly rate than what we want to offer in order to match their current pay. Can we ask for proof of their current salary?

We want to start by saying that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has stated that asking employees about their previous pay is ill-advised. Even though there’s no federal law that prohibits it, the EEOC has made it clear that inquiring about a job applicant’s salary history information can potentially make a case for pay discrimination. We know that isn’t your intention, but it’s a slippery slope nonetheless.

Outside of the EEOC’s guidance and general best HR practices, it’s also possible that you live in a state that outright prohibits this. So far, 21 states have enacted some sort of salary history ban, and some of them come with hefty fines for violations. The guidance we give our members falls in line with these laws – it’s better to steer clear of any salary history questions.

So what can you do to help you decide on a rate of pay? Set a pay band that’s supported by performance. Ask questions during the interview that can give you an idea of the applicant’s ability to produce and help decide if a higher pay rate might be deserved. What the applicant is asking for only plays a part in what you offer them – it should ultimately be based on what you can pay and what they can bring to the practice.

 

My office is on a busy city street and we’ve had random people wander in a few times. Several of my employees that have concealed carry permits have asked about keeping a firearm at their workstations. Are there any issues with this?

From a purely legal standpoint, it depends on what your state says about weapons in the workplace. That law will determine any restrictions there may be about where and when employees can have weapons. Ideally, your employee handbook should have a policy that addresses this and is compliant with whatever your state law says. Make sure to double check the law before making a decision.

From an HR perspective, there’s more to consider. You should think about how this might impact OSHA requirements, your workers compensation plan, and your business liability insurance. Workers comp and business liability typically cover any workplace injuries, but some plans do have exclusions. It’s a good idea to confirm that allowing weapons in the workplace won’t result in a loss of coverage.

There’s also premises concerns. If any portions of your office are leased, there may be additional restrictions when it comes to firearms and weapons.

If you decide to allow your employees to bring weapons to work, think about the details of your policy. What type of guns and/or weapons will you allow? Will you require any sort of firearm proficiency or psychological testing beforehand?

The policies can be complicated with a lot of unique details to manage. A good alternative might be to have a safety plan in place for specific scenarios. This could include things like installing a panic button, having security cameras and an alarm system, having a buddy system so no one is alone in the office, or even having a system that requires patients to be buzzed into the office. These things can alleviate your employees’ safety concerns without the liability of firearms or other weapons.

Typically at this point in a conversation with one of our HR experts, our member realizes that the liability concern are insurmountable and outweigh any possible benefit. That’s even before we pose the question of how you feel about terminating someone who is carrying.

My employees have taken to caring for a stray dog that has set itself up behind our office. Are there any issues with this from an HR perspective? If one of the employees is hurt while checking on it, can I be held liable? The employees only go out there on their lunch breaks and before and after work, never on the clock.

We like this question because it showcases one of the ‘out of the box’ ways we’re able to help our members. On the surface, this may not seem like an HR issue. The employees aren’t on the clock and are technically not in the office while caring for the dog.

But the employees’ safety could still fall on you should something go wrong. Remember, it’s your responsibility as an employer to provide a safe working environment.

We recommend issuing a memo to the team to discourage them from entering any areas behind the office that could pose danger. The memo can be as simple as reiterating the importance of safety and reminding them not to check on the animal while on the clock.

If the area is laid out in a way where the dog is still on your property, the danger of entering those areas could leave your business liable for injuries that occur. Your business liability insurance provider could provide more detail about this specific scenario.

Although your employees might become attached to the dog and enjoy caring for them, there’s still risk involved in feeding and caring for strays. Contacting a local shelter or animal rescue to relocate the animal is likely the best course of action here!

 

At CEDR, we help employers protect their businesses and build stronger teams. Because stronger teams build better workplaces, and better workplaces make better lives.

Have an HR question you need to talk through with an HR expert? Reach out to the Solution Center for expert guidance, or get your questions answered in our private, professional Facebook Group, HR Base Camp.

Feb 27, 2023

Friendly Disclaimer: This information is general in nature and is not intended to provide legal advice or replace individual guidance about a specific issue with an attorney or HR expert. The information on this page is general human resources guidance based on applicable local, state and/or federal U.S. employment law that is believed to be current as of the date of publication. Note that CEDR is not a law firm, and as the law is always changing, you should consult with a qualified attorney or HR expert who is familiar with all of the facts of your situation before making a decision about any human resources or employment law matter.

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