HR Base Camp Roundup – January 4th, 2022

This week’s questions from our HR Base Camp Facebook group involve FFCRA availability, holiday pay, part-time vs. full-time, smelly employees, and perpetual morning sickness

With Omicron on the rise, you may be wondering if FFCRA is still available…

Any chance the special credit for paying staff out with a COVID experience still going?

Answer: Unfortunately, FFCRA credit expired in September and there is currently no other federal pandemic paid leave available. Since you’re a member, we’ve sent you an email with additional guidance. Please let us know if you have any questions.
Though this holiday season is over, there are always more holidays coming and you should take time to consider what your policies on holiday pay should be…

Since Christmas and New Years day are on a Saturday and our office is closed, what are offices doing for pay if it’s a paid holiday? (Note: Christmas and New Year’s fall on a Sunday this year.)

Answer: Whether or not you pay for a holiday comes down to how your policy is structured. Some offices offer a paid day on Friday or Monday, but that is up to your discretion. We actually made a video blog about this a few weeks ago. Check out Ally’s guidance on holiday pay.
How many hours worked per week is considered full-time? Is there a standard?

What is the typical cut off for a part-time employee versus full time? We have it at 30 hours per week, but our office policy is if you work less than 30 hours, you only get paid for a holiday if you typically work that day. Our part-time employee states the standard for part time is 20 hours a week. I want to make sure we are being fair and providing the customary benefits.

Answer: There is no state or federal definition of “part-time” employee. The “standard” we see is typically anywhere between 28 and 32. However, we’ve also seen some as low as 15 and as high as 39. Employers are free to set full-time and part-time employment classifications internally, so this is ultimately up to your discretion. This is typically done by taking into account things like the number of days the office is open, number of hours in a typical daily shift, etc.

The important thing is that the threshold remains consistent for all employees, as well as any benefits related to their status.

The only exception to this rule is with regards to eligibility for health insurance under a company plan, which designates part-time as an average of less than 30 hour per week.

Smelly smoking employees and how to address the strong odors…

For the first time ever I have an assistant that smokes.  How is this handled? It makes me nauseous and I don’t like it for patients.

Answer: This is a common issue for many practices. Our recommendation is to sit down with the employee and have a direct conversation about the odor. It’s important that you let her know she is not in trouble for smoking off the clock, but that she is expected to work without giving off the unpleasant odor of smoke. It’s helpful to discuss how the odor impacts the practice and your patients, and mention some suggestions to help eliminate the smell before she comes back to work (must brush teeth, wash hands afterwards, change clothes, etc.).

Ideally, your handbook has a policy addressing smoking during work hours and you can direct the employee to this policy during your conversation. As always, make sure to document the conversation after speaking with the employee. We wrote a blog on this topic Employee Smokers & Your Rights as an Employer.
And can you address this through the job application process?

Can you ask if they smoke in the employment application?

Answer: Not recommended. This suggests to the applicant that they won’t be hired if they are a smoker, which isn’t legal in some states. The issue to address is the smell while working, not the fact that they’re a smoker. Same impact as wearing a heavy perfume while you’re working.
How do you as an employer deal with an employee who has perpetual morning sickness?

Hello, I have a staff member who is pregnant and experiencing very bad all day sickness. For the past 2 months she has had to excuse herself from procedures and spend a lot of time in the restroom. The other staff members and I have all been very understanding and will always pick up where she left off but it is starting to wear on the other team members. We have had to work short staffed multiple days when she had to go home early. We have had many pregnancies in our office but this one is a lot different. I’m very concerned it may continue throughout her whole pregnancy because she told me her mom went through the same thing and it lasted her full pregnancy.

Answer: There are two sides to this issue and we will speak to both of them. One is all about the legal obligations and pitfalls we face as owners and managers while the other is about the very human side of having a pregnant employee, who is struggling, while also trying to keep earning.

You and your team obviously want to see her get through this and help but at some point, it may not be possible to continue if things are not working for the practice and the patients.

Depending on how many employees you have, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act and the American with Disabilities Act may apply, which require employers to offer job-related modifications to pregnant employees who are unable to perform job duties as a result of their pregnancy or as a result of a related medical condition. Many state and local laws provide even stricter protections for the pregnant employee, even for very small employers.

If none of those laws applies to you, CEDR still recommends offering accommodations to pregnant employees, as this reduces the chances of being potentially hit with a discrimination claim. It also shows others that you care about your employees. This is all to say, the safest option is to engage in the interactive process with the employee to try to find a possible accommodation before making any other employment decisions, such as permanently reducing her hours or separating from employment. This can include asking her to get information from her doctor about what can be done to enable her to continue working in some capacity. This article provides additional guidance about this process.

One of the best things about the interactive process is that it represents an ongoing human conversation between you and her, and possibly her doctor, where you are earnestly adjusting and trying to come to an accommodation. As you respectfully communicate the issues and get her to propose solutions, that is where real headway can be made and the issues of job performance vs her medical needs can be addressed. It takes finesse and experience to get good outcomes in these situations. Please let us know if we can help. This is, after all, the sort of thing our team helps folks deal with on a daily basis.

Jan 3, 2022

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.
Related Reading
HR Base Camp Roundup – January 18th, 2022
HR Base Camp Roundup – January 18th, 2022

Discussions in our HR Base Camp Facebook Group over the last week covered employees discussing (and gossiping) about pay rates, pregnant employees working around nitrous, COVID return-to-work guidance, and more. Here’s a summary of some of the top conversations: When...

read more
HR Base Camp Roundup – January 11th, 2022
HR Base Camp Roundup – January 11th, 2022

This week’s questions from our HR Base Camp Facebook group involve cashing out unused vacation when an employee leaves, asking for a reason when an employee wants time off, and (of course) plenty of COVID-related questions as well. How do you handle an employee's...

read more
Share This