Episode 602 : Ask Me Anything – Embezzlement, Kids in the Office, and Sick Leave Laws

In this week’s episode of What the Hell Just Happened?! Paul Edwards and Jennie McLaughlin answer some listener-submitted questions. For this episode, the questions surround some complex scenarios that every person dealing with HR can relate to. From how to handle anonymous tips about employee misconduct (such as embezzlement) to the intricate balance of allowing kids in the workplace, this episode offers practical advice and real-world solutions. The discussion doesn’t stop there – stay tuned for an essential breakdown of recent changes in sick leave laws across various states. Don’t miss out – listen now and arm yourself with the knowledge to tackle any HR challenge that comes your way!


Voice Over: You’re about to listen to an episode of What the Hell Just Happened?! Join Paul Edwards and his guests as they discuss interesting HR topics and solve some of our listeners’ submitted questions. 


Paul: And occasionally I’ll go off HR topic and talk about whatever I want to talk about. Think barbecue. Space exploration. Technology. Money. Managing. Business. Things that interest all of us.


Voice Over: We get a lot of emails with questions. Stay tuned for details on how you can submit yours to the show. And now let’s get started. 


Paul: Hi, everyone. On today’s show, we’re going to kind of do an ask me anything format. This is something that we do in a lot of our newsletters and our education, where we just take some questions that are being asked by our members or by our listeners, and we answer a couple of them and kind of go through the scenario. Today’s two questions are pretty interesting, and they’re kind of a trend that we’re seeing coming from our members, and that’s like, you know, about 3000 different offices sending in their HR problems. One of them has to do with bringing kids into the office. Then the other one, if I remember, has to do with receiving these anonymous communications from outside your practice about an employee that works for you, like, “Hey, I don’t know if you know it or not, but so-and-so was a drug addict,” or, “So-and-so is being investigated for embezzling,” or, “So-and-so got fired for some reason.” Really it’s kind of someone from the outside kind of lashing out at one of your employees. What do you do with that piece of information? So we’re going to talk about that. Also, there’s a plethora of laws that are being changed. Employment laws are being changed and/or enacted across the country, specifically around sick leave rules. Jennie and I are going to talk about that. Jennie is the Director and Head of Compliance over at CEDR. So this is going to be kind of a HR centric old school, sort of here’s some problems and here’s what’s going on, sort of What the Hell Just Happened in HR?! I hope you enjoy the show. Okay. So before we get into the AMA kind of style thing, Jennie, that I talked about, I kind of want to go into the sick leave law? These changes that are happening across the country, and I know California’s killing us right now because they keep well, first of all, they’re running a little behind on telling us exactly how the new rules are supposed to apply. So for everybody out there who is listening, there are many states that are doing this. So I don’t want to just focus on California. There are several states, I think about seven? 


Jennie: With sick leave laws, new sick leave laws that are going to affect January? There’s three. 


Paul: Okay. 


Jennie: There are like seven states that have law changes. We’ve got to update member handbooks for it. 


Paul: So they’re changing. So they’re changing things. 


Jennie: A lot of them are paid time or paid leave of absence rules.


Paul: Those kinds of things. Okay. So for everybody who’s listening, we’re talking about CEDR. Right now you’re listening to What the Hell Just Happened in HR?! Usually in HR and so we’re really going to kind of focus on what CEDR does today and kind of go into that, like I said in the introduction. Back to the AMA thing: So with all of these sick leave laws either being enacted or being changed. So that’s very, very important in California. It’s not a new law, it’s a change of an existing rule that’s there. I think it really highlights and I’m just going to say this about CEDR. Well, it’s not about CEDR. It’s about being a small business owner. HR is for life, right? Once you, Jennie?


Jennie: Yeah.


Paul: Once we have HR here, it comes up every day. Something that we have to deal with in HR is impacted by an employment law or regulations or rules around you’re supposed to handle. Whether it’s just someone letting us know they’re going on maternity leave or someone wants to bring their dog in.


Jennie: [laughing] Yeah!


Paul: Which we allow. 


Jennie: Yeah. We allow that at CEDR. My dog’s under the table right now. 


Paul: But there’s rules. 


Jennie: There’s rules around it.


Paul: That your dog is constantly breaking Jennie, and that’s why we’re here in the podcast today. [laughing]


Jennie: [sighs] So Mopsy has been a loyal dog of CEDR for over ten years. 


Paul: He has been here a long time.


Jennie: So just because he occasionally pees on Paul’s couch…


Paul: Yeah.


Jennie & Paul: Doesn’t mean – 




Paul: That he needs a corrective action.


Jennie: But any other dog would get it because Mopsy’s our favorite. 


Paul: Exactly. And he won’t sign them. So that’s the other thing. 


Jennie: Yeah. He refuses to sign them.


Paul: Which then gets him in more trouble. Okay so – 


Jennie: With sick leave: Yeah, we’re doing something a little different today with the podcast cause frankly, Paul, I’m too busy to prepare a whole podcast with you because we’re swamped. 


Paul: We’re a little bit swamped. I saw all of you in a room yesterday and what was going on?


Jennie: Yeah. So California, we’ve got around 300 members or so in California. California has had a sick leave law in place since, I want to say 2015?


Paul: Yep. 


Jennie: But they’ve changed it and they’re adding extra criteria to it. 


Paul: Okay. 


Jennie: And there’s multiple cities and counties that have their own sick leave laws and –


Paul: And they won’t agree.


Jennie: State law changes are different and so it’s a whole you know…Even for our members who maybe you are so generous you offer two weeks of PTO and the state’s now only requiring you give them five days of sick time. We still have to make changes to your policy, and multiple other policies. There’s a reproductive loss leave. We were making some changes in the drug testing policy. A few other places. Anyway, it takes a lot of custom changes. So yesterday Ally, who’s on our podcast quite a bit, she’s our compliance specialist. She was actually training me and I’m the director. Her manager reports to me. She was training me, Paul’s executive assistant and our internal HR assistant, Grace, who’s new to the team, on how to help producing those handbags because it’s all hands on deck.


Paul: Yeah, and what’s happened with a lot of these changes that we’re seeing, not just in California, but because of the way the rules are being written, they’re impacting other policies in your handbook. So that’s what we always say to people is you could go on Google or you could even probably comb our site and kind of get a checklist or an idea of all the things that you have to do in order to comply with a rule like, you know, a good jumping on point. What you can’t do is gain the understanding it takes to write the policy, make the corrections for the new law, regulation or changes, and then understand how it’s impacting some of the other policies that you have in your employee handbook, and that’s what’s killing us right now. 


Jennie: Yeah.


Paul: And honestly, I wonder how other companies who do what we do at CEDR, as far as the handbooks are concerned, are going to handle this because they do not have the infrastructure for it.


Jennie: No.


Paul: So I think what they’re going to do is push out some guidance and they’re going to tell people they can copy, paste some stuff in there and people are going to get no training or understanding on how that copy paste just impacted other parts of their employee handbook. 


Jennie: Yeah, I actually was talking to our compliance manager about how are other places, even law firms who do handbooks, doing this? And I realize that’s how they’re doing it because they don’t actually take ownership of the person’s handbook. The company’s handbook.


Paul: No, no. They give it to you in Microsoft Word. 


Jennie: We are manually reading through every single one, and custom fixing their policy in the best way possible to make it work. Whereas other companies we know they’re just going to email you: “Here’s a new policy you can use.” And not explain that you also have to change these parts of your vacation policy. You have to change this part of it. So, we could take the easy route, Paul. 


Paul: We could. 


Jennie: But we never let ourselves do that for some reason. So yeah. 


Paul: So yeah, if you’re a member and you’re listening and you’re getting these notices from us, you’re probably paying attention to what we’re telling you because we’re making changes to your handbook and then you’re going to be able to easily distribute it through the HR Vault.


Jennie: And just because we said we don’t want to harp on California, if you’re in Minnesota, you’ve also got a statewide law and there are two local laws already there. So same problem.


Paul: What about Kenny? What about Kenny in North Carolina? Any problems? 


Jennie: Kenny in North Carolina? He’s good. He’s always good. Now, you know, Kenny in Illinois, if I could, we just stop servicing Illinois because Illinois is making us crazy. 


Paul: [laughing] Yeah. 


Jennie: Illinois keeps passing laws that say, “And you have to put this in your handbook.” And there’s multiples, but worse than that, Illinois has a statewide now, not sick leave, it’s an all purpose PTO policy. Employees can take time off for any reason.


Paul: And that’s very unique.


Jennie: That’s unique.


Paul: That has never occurred.


Jennie:  I think maybe one other place. We thought…We’re like, “Okay, we got that.” Except, except.


Paul: Yeah?


Jennie: Cook County. Which is apparently known by everyone – 


Paul: It’s big. It’s huge. 


Jennie: To be the worst in terms of laws. Chicago is in Cook County.


Paul: I love Chicago, by the way.


Jennie: Chicago is in Cook County. Cook County has a countywide sick leave law. Chicago said we’re not following that. We’re going to make our own Chicago law. This was several years ago. Also Cook County’s weird and lets towns choose whether or not they’re going to follow that law. So there are some towns in Cook County that follow the Cook County law and some don’t. Okay. Chicago has just decided they’re also going to change their sick leave law because I guess they don’t want the state law to seem more generous than them, so they want to change it. Cook County has decided they also want to make changes, but they haven’t voted on it yet. So we’re sitting here for, you know, 200 handbooks to update. Would you guys make up your mind? 


Paul: Yeah. For those of you working with those big payroll companies and stuff out there, good luck with this –




Paul: And this is going to be great for you. Okay. All right. Let’s get into our AMA. So on the first one, you know, you told me this and I looked into it, not that I doubted you, but I was able to verify. We have several members who have reached out this year with a question like this question. So I think it’s a good one to cover on the podcast, and I don’t think we have an easy answer to it.


Jennie: No.


Paul: So it’s not a cut and dry answer. But the problem is, is that they get (they – the employer) get some kind of information sent to them. It can be an email or it could be someone telling someone –


Jennie: Sometimes it’s an anonymous Facebook message. 


Paul: Sometimes it’s an anonymous Facebook message. 


Jennie: Or mail with no return address. It’s been weird. 


Paul: And it says something to the effect of, “You have an employee working for you and you may not know this, but…” And then they give you, the employer, a piece of negative information about them. It could be anything from they’re under investigation for embezzlement at their last practice, by which I’d like to say thank you, and then I’d also like to ask why you didn’t background check them and see that they’d been charged with that and they were under investigation?


Jennie: Maybe call their prior employer?


Paul: Maybe do those things, but nonetheless, it can be everything from that to your new associate is an adulterer and was accused of having relations with employees at the last practice. He was that and that’s why he got fired from there. 


Jennie: We get accusations of them being drug dealers –


Paul: Oh! Drug users.


Jennie: Addicts and sometimes there’s pretty clear evidence there’s some sort of vendetta going on here. 


Paul: Yeah, there’s always a vendetta. 


Jennie: Well, yes, there is always a vendetta. Sometimes it seems like, this is what you know, we have to talk to them about. What we need to look at, don’t just ignore it per se, especially maybe the embezzlement thing. 


Paul: Well, hang on a second. I do want to say this. I just spent the last week with my family because it was Thanksgiving last week. I don’t know when this is going to be released, probably sometime next year. My sister, my dad were there. I just want to remind everyone, no one likes a tattletale. 


Jennie: [laughing]


Paul: My sister was like, for a second there, I thought she was going to bust me to my dad on something I was doing. Then I was like, “Wait a minute, he’s not in charge of me anymore and I have to worry about this.”




Paul: Anyway. Just if my sister’s listening, and she does listen every now and then, no one likes a tattletale.


Jennie: No one likes a tattletale. I want my brother to know that, too. 


Paul: Yeah. 


Jennie: My brother has a learning disability –


Paul: And not a great filter. 


Jennie: No, no filter. So no matter what happens, he just comes home and like, reports everything that happens, and ‘m like, “You don’t. Why are you telling Dad? Like, he doesn’t need to know, first of all, what type of beer I ordered at the bar or how I said thank you to the bartender. He also doesn’t need to know that thing I off the cuff said when I was a little tipsy, you know?”




Paul: About Dad.


Jennie: About Dad. Yeah. Shut up. [laughing]


Paul: Shut up. No one likes a tattletale. Okay, so we’ve established that. 


Jennie: No tattletales. 


Paul: Okay, so the question is, is what am I supposed to do with this? Because, you know, you’ve heard us tell you, be careful about getting information about employees from channels that you’re not supposed to be in. So that goes back to background checks and people trying to research somebody on Facebook and not getting good information and stuff like that. So now we have this piece of information that’s come in. I think the answer to what you’re supposed to do with it is, it depends.


Jennie: Yes!


Paul: So the embezzlement thing, I think it’s pretty clear. That one’s easy. I think we’re going to look into that a little bit further. 


Jennie: You’re going to look into that, please, and I think just for anyone listening, if you think or hear rumors that someone on your team may be an embezzler: Don’t say anything to them. 


Paul: Yeah.


Jennie: Ideally you’re a CEDR member. Call us and we actually have a great service. We can refer you out to Prosperident, if you’re a dentist.


Paul: If we thought embezzlement was going on.


Jennie: There’s probably things you don’t want to tip them off that you know they’re embezzling because they might burn down your building, which has happened before, to hide the evidence. 


Paul: Yeah, to hide the evidence. That was a great story. It was like a New Jersey practice.


Jennie: Yeah. [laughing]


Paul: The woman burned it down in order to keep them from looking at the records not realizing –


Jennie: Because they all had paper files. 


Paul: Yeah, they all had paper but in that case, she even got in trouble because it was the beginning of keeping things on servers.


Jennie: Oh, yeah! They had it on the server.


Paul: They had what they needed on the server. 


Jennie: Yeah. So you want to get some information or maybe look at what information you have, what type of concern it is.


Paul: And so you got to look at that. So I think my default though, is, is I’m not supposed to have this piece of information and I believe that about 80% of what I see is none of my business. It could put me on alert like the associate issue. If that’s something that they have a habit of doing, then I’m probably going to be hyper aware of it.


Jennie: Yeah. If they’re claiming someone’s a drug user, maybe – 


Paul: I’m going to pay a little closer –  


Jennie: Double check if their eye are a little glazed over. Yeah, but you don’t need to…It’s not cause to go drug test. 


Paul: No.


Jennie: But you should be looking for these signs anyway. Is there something going on that actually is impacting their work?


Paul: I think the reason why we’re talking about this is because it’s happening more and like we’re getting we’re starting to get this kind of request for, “What am I supposed to do with this information?” more and more often. So sorry. In that Ask Me Anything, I don’t have a direct answer, but – 


Jennie: It depends.


Paul: I think you want to take a step back when it’s a moral thing, when it’s the people calling in.


Jennie: Yeah, when it’s people calling in and saying, “You know, your associate doctor is having an affair.” If it’s with an employee, maybe that’s an issue, but you don’t need to get into their personal drama. 


Paul: Yeah. I think my first inclination is to take a step back and not do anything with it and then take a look at it from that place. Okay, let’s get to the next question. Jennie, you’re the one who brought this up. [laughing]


Jennie: Yeah. So we had someone submit this question, and then we’ve actually, I’ve seen a trend and around this, which is surprising, keeping in mind that we primarily work with health care practices. So all the employees are pretty active with patients all day. There seems to be this trend of employees bringing their kids to work with them without asking about it first.


Paul: In odd circumstances.


Jennie: In odd circumstances. 


Paul: Yeah. Like the example you gave me was that they were having a little Thanksgiving celebration. 


Jennie: Yeah, they had planned it well in advance. They all agreed they wanted to do like a potluck or something. 


Paul: Yeah. I love the potluck by the way.


Jennie: And it was on like a Wednesday, and this particular employee doesn’t work Wednesdays, but she wanted to come in for the party.


Paul: Oh!


Jennie: Yeah. She knew about it, but, “Oh, I couldn’t find child care.” So she brought her kids with her. 


Paul: Yeah. 


Jennie: And the owner was like…And there were like five of them. Little kids running around, and she’s like, “We did not sign up to babysit your kids right now.” 


Paul: Right, right. 


Jennie: “What is happening?”


Paul: And what was her reason?


Jennie: She didn’t find child care.


Paul: She couldn’t get child care.


Jennie: Even though she knew about this like a month in advance and not having child care isn’t some legally protected reason to have – 


Paul: To be able to bring the kids. 


Jennie: Excuses around stuff or bring your kids. Now, we have, especially during the pandemic, we encouraged maybe flexibility because there were issues with daycare and stuff like that, but that’s when the employee’s approaching you and telling you they have a problem. 


Paul: So this is a good point to make here on the Ask Me Anything. Well, we are not going to say you should, and you know that you can’t just have kids coming in indiscriminately and we established pretty well during the pandemic and we had talked about it many times before, a lot of our doctors had come to us and said, “I’d like to set up a little bit of a daycare here. I’d like for it to be a benefit. I’m going to pay somebody.” And then we thought, “Well, this is kind of a neat idea. What a great thing for them to do. They’ve got 27 employees and they’re like, ‘Let’s put this together.’” The problem is, is that it’s a whole nother set of liabilities and you can’t just do it. You literally have to set up a daycare. You literally have to get the insurance. You have to have the qualified people there and you have all the extended problems with that. 


Jennie: So it’s tricky.


Paul: We’re not going to do that. 


Jennie: We’re not going to do that. 


Paul: We’re not going to do that, but having a policy that says that if you have a problem and need to bring your kids in, this is what you would need to do in order to let us know to see if we can see if we can help you out. I think it’s still good to be flexible with moms and dads out there that are having trouble with childcare, right?


Jennie: It is. Yeah. I think it’s that you can, as a business owner or a manager, expect your employee –


Paul: Not to bring their children. 


Jennie: Yeah, because I think the person who submitted a question to us said, “The employee’s kids didn’t have school that day,” because it was like parent-teacher conferences or something. So they didn’t have school. So she just brought the kids to work and was going to just have them sit in the breakroom for her eight hour shift without telling anyone in advance. So everyone’s like, “Who’s watching these kids? What are they? Now they’re like wandering down the hallway.” It’s kind of funny to think, you know, you have a HIPAA violation because your kid’s over hearing patient information, but as we have said, there are some people who have no filter. 


Paul: Yeah. 


Jennie: So that kid might actually go to school and be like, “Hey, I saw your mom at the doctor yesterday.” Kind of an extreme example, but not having notice there’s going to be a bunch of kids sitting in your break room isn’t great.


Paul: And there isn’t often a break room. 


Jennie: Yes.


Paul: And so the next thing is, is, “Well, we’re going to keep her, you know, she’s just going to hang out with me. I’ll keep an eye on her and she’ll be quiet.” And look, it’s again, sometimes you might want to say yes to that.


Paul: “My mom can come get her at lunch.”


Jennie: Right.


Paul: “I’m stuck. My babysitter’s got COVID. School’s out today.” You’re looking, you’re the business owner and you’ve got eight employees and this is a key employee. You don’t have anybody to take their place. Then you might say, “Well, yeah, I mean, you don’t really have a choice. Bring her in and stick her back there and let’s hope for the best.” 


Jennie: Give her an iPad. 


Paul: Yup. Give her an iPad.


Jennie: Put some headphones on her and give her a snack.


Paul: Or put her on the phones and get her to make some callbacks.


Jennie: Or, or that. [laughing]


Paul: For some hygiene slots. So again, the answer to this is it depends, but I believe that the real answer to this is that having a policy in place is kind of a good thing and that empowers them to be able to know that they were supposed to ask and also empowers you to be able to say yes or no or place conditions upon your yes. 


Jennie: Yeah. I think part of that goes to I think a lot of owners and business managers are feeling like this is a real issue, you know? Childcare is a real issue and I value this employee and am I doing something wrong by addressing this with her because she brought her kids in unexpectedly?And you’re not.


Paul: And if I do this for her, do I have to do it for everybody because I like her and I don’t like this other employee and I know she’s going to start bringing her kids in. Again, if you’re on the phone with our experts, we’re going to walk you through the stuff.


Jennie: Put some parameters in there.


Paul: One of the questions we’re going to ask is, ‘What do you want to have happen here? Do you want to accommodate this? Or do you not want to?” So we can set you up for the best possible outcome. Okay. So everybody thanks for listening to What the Hell Just Happened?! Jennie, thank you, as always for joining. I hope you guys got some piece of useful information out of this, maybe?


Jennie: Maybe.


Paul: Yeah, maybe. 


Jennie: I think the most useful thing here is if you’re watching the Instagram clip is that today, me and Paul are wearing pretty matching glasses. 


Paul: We did pretty good. 


Jennie: Yeah, we’re pretty good. 


Paul: You want to be me. You’re copying me.


Jennie: I’m trying to take over from Paul.


Paul: Yeah. Or one pair of glasses at a time. 




Paul: All right, everybody, thanks for listening and we hope to catch you on the next podcast.


Voice Over: Thanks for joining us for this week’s episode of What the Hell Just Happened?! If you have an HR issue, question, or just want to add a comment about something Paul said, record it on your phone and send it to podcast@wthjusthappened.com. We might even ask if we can play it on the show. Don’t forget to Like and Subscribe and join us again next week.


Dec 22, 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.