HR Base Camp Roundup – April 14th, 2023

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

 

Several of my employees are going out of town for an overnight work event. Can I ask them to share rooms to save some money?

The legal side of things: When it comes to employees sharing rooms during work-related travel, it is more of an HR question than a legal one. There’s no law that specifically says you can’t ask employees to share rooms. That said, mandating that employees share rooms can create legal risk.

The obvious one is that an employee raises a complaint about sexual harassment based on something they say their roommate did in the room. A rule for only same-sex room sharing does not cure this. Nor does doing room assignments based in part on sexual orientation.

Sharing a room can also lead to a coworker discovering something very personal about another employee, ranging from seeing they have a medical issue that an employee was trying to keep private, to overhearing a personal family matter being discussed on the phone, to seeing that this employee has a religious practice they engage in at night.

When you meet your team for breakfast in the morning and find out they’re sharing personal pieces of information about their coworkers, you then are facing an easily avoidable HR issue which could cause legal concerns.

Now for the human approach: Generally speaking, it’s uncommon that someone would choose to spend the night with their coworker outside of a work trip, even if they aren’t a stranger.

Our advice is to book single rooms for each employee. We realize this isn’t the most cost effective, but it is the most risk averse, and is generally going to be better for morale.

You don’t want what is supposed to be an enjoyable, educational trip to turn into something that your team stops looking forward to. Personal discomfort may be high, and any number of conflicts can happen.

One person is a night owl, the other one an early bird. One person is very private and worried about professionalism, the other walks around in their underwear. One employee tosses and turns all night (or snores), keeping the other person awake and very grumpy the next day.

If room sharing is going to happen anyway, be mindful that you’re going to have varying reactions to this. Do your best to allow employee input on who they’re comfortable sharing a room with, and be receptive to any concerns they raise.

We’re opening a new office and I want my current employees to alternate weekend shifts at the new location. What do I need to consider?

The legal side of things: Unless you have some type of restrictive contract in place (and you shouldn’t!) you are able to change work schedules as needed. So it’s certainly legal to start adding some additional weekend hours.

Keep in mind, however, that if these weekend shifts are on top of a regular full-time schedule, they may be going into overtime. This may impact who you decide to schedule on the weekend or how you set up the schedule for full-time employees throughout the week. Non-exempt employees will need to be paid overtime if this brings them over 40 hours in a workweek.

Very critical here is understanding that this overtime rule applies even if they are working at their regular office during the week and helping out at the new location over the weekend. In the vast majority of circumstances, the law will consider the employees to be working for the same employer regardless of being at different offices. Meaning you can’t avoid overtime by splitting the hours into different payrolls. Having separate LLCs or Tax IDs doesn’t change this.

There’s a whole employment law analysis that has to take place to determine if the new location can be treated as a separate employer. As a business owner or manager, you shouldn’t go down that road without working closely with an employment law expert.

Now for the human approach: Adding new weekend shifts to your schedule might make some employees unhappy. After all, you’re now asking them to give up one of the days saved for R&R in order to come into the office. You’re on the right track by making this a rotating schedule so that it’s fair across the board.

We’d recommend setting the schedule far in advance so that employees don’t find out at the last minute. If they have the ability to switch weekend shifts with someone, make sure you have a process in place to track this so you don’t end up with an unattended office and no paper trail showing who was supposed to be there.

Some employers choose to offer a higher pay rate for weekend shifts. This often leads employees to volunteer to work the weekend shift, which can help ease things amongst staff members that are less thrilled about weekend work. If you choose to do this, make sure it’s offered to everyone and the details are in writing.

One of my hygienists requested to treat their family member outside of work hours because it works better with the family member’s schedule. Am I required to pay for them for that time even though they requested to work outside of normal business hours?

The legal side of things: Yes! The hygienist may be treating family members, but they’re still patients of the practice, so the hygienist is performing work for your business. This is true no matter when the treatment is taking place.

Non-exempt employees (like hygienists) must be paid for all hours worked. You’ve also got to pay for any overtime this may lead to.

If you have a policy of having employees “volunteer” to provide treatment to each other and to family members, that’s something that needs to change. In the eyes of the law, the employee is performing work and therefore must be paid. The identity of the patient doesn’t change this.

Now for the human approach: We highly recommend that you do not allow anyone to provide patient care in your office outside of regular hours. First off, depending on your state laws, allowing a hygienist to work without on-site supervision may be a problem in itself.

There’s simply a lot of risk to your business in allowing this. We’ve heard plenty of stories about how this goes sideways:

  • the employee starts going in whenever they please to provide free service to all their friends,
  • the employee fails to do any of the necessary documentation in patient records so you don’t even know that a visit happened,
  • a patient is injured and your business liability disclaims coverage based on the circumstances,
  • an employee starts running their own business out of your office and pocketing money for treatment they provide,

and so on.

If scheduling family member treatment is a common issue for your team and you want to help, you can consider scheduling a specific family treatment day in advance, or occasional days when the team works a little later to see family members.

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.

Apr 14, 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 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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