HR Base Camp Roundup – March 22nd, 2022

The top HR questions in HR Base Camp and CEDR’s HR Solution Center last week centered around an employee causing discontent in the office by threatening to quit, what to do with PTO when an employee quits or is terminated, and how to structure the first 90 days of employment. Here are our top 3 Q&As:  

  1. What should you do if you hear that an employee is talking about quitting but they haven’t submitted a resignation letter or brought any concerns directly to you?
  2. What do you do with an employee’s earned PTO upon separation?
  3. When a new employee starts work, does their 90-day getting acquainted period span 90 work days or 90 calendar days?

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What should you do if you hear that an employee is talking about quitting but they haven’t submitted a resignation letter or brought any concerns directly to you?

An employer was dealing with an employee who was spreading negativity throughout the office. This employee had suggested that they might not stay in their role for much longer and the doctor was curious about how to handle the situation.

Answer: Once an employee has decided they are going to leave your practice their presence in the office can be more trouble than benefit. But what if that negativity is spreading behind the scenes and nothing has been said to you about it directly?

First off, it should be noted that the National Labor Relations Act protects the legal right of non-supervisory employees to talk about their working conditions. This law applies to employers across the nation regardless of the size of your business and it essentially means that your employees are legally allowed to talk to each other about things they don’t like about their jobs, including discussing their intention to quit. As an employer, this means you need to be careful about addressing “negative talk” in a punitive way as doing so could come across as retaliation for protected activity (and, no, your “at-will” status will not protect you in such cases if you move directly to write-ups and/or termination).

So, what should you do when you learn that an employee is dissatisfied with their working conditions? Your employee handbook should include a legally compliant “Employee Concern Reporting” policy (this is a standard policy in every CEDR handbook) that you will want to refer to for guidance. 

Once you’ve reviewed this policy, pull the employee aside for a private meeting and let them know it has come to your attention that they are unhappy. Rely on facts you’ve observed or concerns that were reported to you directly to back up this claim (for example, I heard you say “I hate this job,” or “Other employees have said that you seem unhappy” or “Patients have complained that you have been rude to them.” Refer to the FIRR formula for more on how to have productive conversations about performance or behavioral issues with employees). You will want to have an employee interaction log form handy to take notes during this meeting.

Let the employee know that you would like the opportunity to address any concerns they may have about their role or working conditions, but that they need to go through the proper employee concern reporting process for you to be able to do so. You can then provide the employee with an employee concern form to fill out so that you can get any concerns they’d like to address in writing.

This meeting may be enough of a reality check for your employee to get back on track. But, if performance and behavior continue to be a problem, you may need to move on to the next steps in the progessive corrective coaching process, including corrective action. Again, make sure you are addressing objective performance and behavioral issues during this process and are not punishing “negative talk” itself. If the employee expresses a desire to quit to you directly, let them know that you will need their resignation in writing. You can provide them with a voluntary resignation form to fill out so that you can get a record of their intended final day on file.

This is an extremely delicate situation that will vary from situation to situation. But, when an employee’s attitude takes a turn for the worse and it becomes clear that they are on their way out, it’s important that you remain calm and follow procedure. Document all of your conversations with the employee and resist the urge to react emotionally. And, most importantly, work with a qualified HR professional to make sure your legal bases are covered and your practice is protected at each stage in this very difficult and sensitive process.

Click to download your free employee interaction log template for free.

What do you do with an employee’s earned PTO upon separation?

An employee had accrued more than a week’s worth of PTO before submitting their two-week notice and the doctor wanted to know if they had to include that time on the employee’s final paycheck.

Answer: PTO payout is typically entirely dependent on your specific handbook policy on the subject. Your handbook should clearly state what happens to PTO/vacation at the time of separation from employment and this is what you should default to. However, that’s assuming there are no additional state laws that apply to you which dictate what kind of payout is required. 

State and local laws can be very specific about what has to happen with accrued PTO upon separation, including whether that time is considered “earned wages” – meaning it must be paid upon separation – or if it is viewed as discretionary payment – meaning that employees may lose that time if it is not used upon separation from employment. These laws often treat sick time and vacation time differently, as well.

This is why it’s important to consider how PTO laws apply in your state when drafting the relevant policies in your employee handbook. For example, if your state has different requirements for sick time and other forms of PTO but you’ve lumped both into the same PTO category in your time-off policy (as opposed to having two separate banks of time), you may find yourself having to payout for the entire balance where you otherwise would not have been obligated to pay for all of that time.

If you have a CEDR employee handbook, your policies are customized to comply with the laws that apply to you and per your office’s preference in this matter.

If you have questions about the PTO laws in your state or want to talk about updating your employee handbook, contact a CEDR HR professional for guidance or reach out in our private Facebook Group.

 

When a new employee starts work, does their 90-day getting acquainted period span 90 work days or 90 calendar days?

An employer was onboarding a new employee and was curious about when their 90-day getting acquainted period would end.

Answer: There is no legal standard or status associated with a getting acquainted period for an at-will employee. Therefore, how that period is tracked is based on your own policies. The way CEDR typically defines this in employee handbooks is as 90 calendar days from the date of hire.

Important side note: We use the phrase “getting acquainted period” rather than “probation” for a reason, as calling an employee’s first 90 days a “probationary period” could be viewed as a promise of employment that could effectively nullify your business’ at-will status

If your handbook uses the phrase “probation” for this initial 90-day period, reach out to CEDR to see if you qualify to have an HR expert review your handbook for free.

Not a CEDR Member? Get additional guidance and updates in our private Facebook Group. Click to join!

Mar 21, 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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