HR Basecamp Roundup – Slow season – Sending people Home; holiday pay policies; and negative comments on social media

Summer tends to be slow for us. Is it okay to send employees home early if we have no patients?

The legal side of things: Unless there’s a contract in place that guarantees employees a certain amount of hours, it’s within your discretion when you send them home.

Keep in mind that several states have “report to work” laws that require employers to pay staff a minimum if they show up ready and able to work but are then sent home. CEDR members will have this policy in their handbook if it applies. If you aren’t sure, reach out to the Solution Center and we’ll look into it for you.

Now for the human approach: In a perfect world, your practice is always busy enough to fill the entire day. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. Even then, there are other options besides sending employees home.

Most of our members use this down time to get caught up on admin or cleaning tasks. These slow days can be the perfect time to knock out inventory, instrument cleaning, training, or follow up on appointments. Many times, employees would rather do this than go home and lose pay for the day.

Sometimes there’s no other choice, but consistently sending employees home can hurt morale. If employees find themselves making half the amount of money that they’re expecting, they’re likely to start looking for other employment options.

Giving them the choice between going home or making up their hours with other work is ideal.

Our office is closing for two days for the 4th of July. Do I have to provide holiday pay for those days?

The legal side of things: Legally, no. Every year we talk to employers that are under the assumption that closures for federal holidays must be paid. That’s not the case. With very few exceptions, neither state nor federal law requires private businesses (meaning non-government) to do anything whatsoever for holidays.

You’re not even required to close for federal holidays. Those decisions are up to you and what your handbook policy says, which is why it’s so important that employees read and sign your handbook.

Big caveat here - even if you don’t provide “holiday pay,” your exempt salaried employees still need to receive their regular salaries when you’re closed for a holiday. When someone is paid on an exempt salaried basis, they need to receive their same salary regardless of hours worked.

There are limited circumstances where you can prorate their salaries, but closing the office for a holiday is not one of those.

Now for the human approach: The last thing you want to be doing as a manager is trying to figure out at the last minute whether you’re closed for a holiday, if anyone needs to be working, and how pay is being handled. If you’re a CEDR member, your Employee Handbook will tell both you and your team which holidays are typically observed, if holiday pay is offered, and who qualifies for holiday pay.

So the simple answer to “do I need to provide holiday pay?”, is “check your handbook.”

But you can still take some steps beyond having a clearly communicated handbook policy to ensure that there are no questions around how you’re handling a holiday. Decisions do need to be made each year around the holiday schedule based on where each holiday falls during the week. We highly recommend making these decisions prior to the start of the calendar year, and sharing your yearly holiday calendar with the entire team. If you haven’t done that - you can still do it now!

Here’s what to do:

1.Review your Employee Handbook to confirm which holidays you’ve identified as being typically observed by your business.
2.Look at the actual calendar to see where each of those holidays fall during your work week.
3.Decide which days you will close for each holiday:

- You can give more time off than usual: This year, Independence Day falls on a Tuesday, which resulted in many businesses (including CEDR) opting to close on both Monday and Tuesday of that week.
- You can also forgo a holiday closure if you wish: If you normally close for New Year’s Day but it happens to fall on a weekend, you might choose not to close at all for that holiday.

4.Make a list of the holiday closure schedule for the year, and use the HR Vault to share the list with your team
5.Make sure your holidays are also blocked on your team/patient calendar.
6.Provide your list of holidays to your timekeeping administrator so that the holiday schedule is set up for the entire year ahead of time for payroll purposes.

Have more questions around holiday pay and closures? Find answers on our podcast: Episode 301: Year-Round Holiday Pay

An employee who I just let go is now posting negative things about the practice on social media. Can I send them a Cease and Desist letter? I don’t want our name getting dragged through the mud.

The legal side of things: As upsetting as this can be, a former employee saying something negative about your business usually is not going to be considered “defamation,” or any other type of legal violation. There’s a pretty high bar to meet the standard required for them to not only be potentially violating the law, but doing so in a way that causes real harm to your business (and therefore is even of interest to an attorney).

You also don’t want to try to overcorrect by putting in a strict social media policy for your current employees. The National Labor Relations Board makes it clear that current employees have the right to discuss the conditions of their employment. This right is protected whether it’s in person or online.

Now for the human approach: Negative comments on social media are a fact of life. The majority of all employers will experience them. We know they can be incredibly frustrating, but they can actually also be pretty insightful.

What is the employee complaining about? Believe it or not, their complaints can sometimes help you discover larger issues. If their posts include things that could be classified as a labor violation, you have a bigger problem. This could be anything from a comment talking about how they’re upset they didn’t get paid overtime despite staying late everyday, or a Facebook status venting about how uncomfortable a coworker made them.

Most of the time, however, negative posts on social media are simply a form of venting, particularly when it comes to ex-employees. Very often the worst thing you can do is respond to what they’re doing, as that’s fueling what would otherwise be a dying fire. Once they’re no longer upset about the separation, the posts tend to die out on their own.

Jun 27, 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.

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