HR Base Camp Roundup – October 19th, 2022

In this week’s edition of the HR Base Camp roundup, we have a question about when paid breaks are required (if they’re even required at all!) and we address a concern from a practice owner who has an employee that’s adding patients as friends on their social media account.

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

 

When are breaks required for employees, and when are you required to pay for them?

My employee says I’m required to provide paid break times. I thought all breaks could be unpaid. Which is it?

Well…you’re kind of both right. Laws around breaks vary greatly. They can change depending on how long the break is, what the break is for, what state you’re in…you get the picture. This means we can’t give an exact answer that will apply to every business, but we can give you a general idea of how to manage breaks.

Federally, there’s no requirement to give breaks. However, if you provide any breaks that are 20 minutes or less, they must be paid. That’s where your employee is right. But, if the only break you provide is a 30 minute lunch break, then it’s not required to be paid. That’s where you’re right. As you can see, the answer changes depending on the kind of break that’s being provided. Again, this is on a federal level. While the majority of states can simply follow federal law, keep in mind that there’s several states that enforce more specific rules. Remember that there’s also other circumstances that may impact if or how the break is paid, such as the break being for a nursing mother.

If you’re unsure if there’s specific rules that you need to be following, check your local laws regarding break times, and make sure you also have a clear break and meal period policy. Breaks are not the enemy – unclear expectations are.

 

Is there anything you can do about an employee who’s adding your patients as friends on social media?

My employee keeps adding patients on social media. They haven’t complained but I feel uneasy about it. Is this something I should be concerned about?

Some employers are surprised when we tell them that there’s no actual law they can reference to prohibit employees from friending patients on social media. That doesn’t mean you can’t address the situation if it’s causing issues.

First and foremost, are patients communicating about their treatment via social media, meaning the practice is out of the loop? Are there possible HIPAA violations occurring? This is one of the primary concerns when it comes to employees befriending patients outside of the practice. If the employee even acknowledges the fact that someone is a patient on social media, you’ve got a HIPAA violation. This could be as simple as saying “see you at your next dentist appointment” or “happy birthday to one of my favorite patients!” Seemingly harmless, but actually a major risk to the practice.

We encourage you to analyze the impact that their friendship is having on the practice. Besides the obvious HIPAA concern, is the employee’s friendship with patients causing tension among other staff? Are you worried that their digital friendship will lead to you losing patients should this employee ever go to another practice? These are all valid reasons to be frustrated, and if you find that this is in line with the reasons why you’re concerned about their friendship, then we recommend speaking to the employee privately and making it clear why this is having a negative impact on the practice.

On the other hand, there’s a big difference between a casual photo like here and there and extensive communication with the patients. If their friendship is really only on social media and you don’t see it affecting the practice, it may be best to let it go until it becomes an issue (if it ever does).

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.

Oct 19, 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.
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