Workplace Issues to Consider About The Internet

Three Workplace Issues to Consider About the Internet

When you think about legal issues associated with the internet that can affect veterinary practices, you may think about telemedicine – and that is an excellent example, although not the only internet-based legal issue faced by practices today. This article provides an overview of three different legal issues associated with the internet.

Researching Potential Employees on Social Media

Social media makes it so easy to find information; including about people your practice is considering hiring. But, is it legitimate to search on social media platforms to discover information about job candidates? As with most broad questions posed about the ever-evolving internet, the answer is “it depends.”

It is not, in general, illegal to research job applicants’ social media profiles, but don’t do so haphazardly. Instead, create a clear written policy about what sites will be reviewed to find what clearly-defined pieces of information. Also determine who will review these profiles and what information will be housed in your records. To add a layer of protection to your social media policy, consider having a person without the ability to hire, a non-decision maker, do the research.

Make sure you follow your policy consistently for all candidates, not only certain ones. If you act inconsistently when an issue involves a protected class, this could open you up to a discrimination lawsuit. A protected class is any group of people with common characteristics who have legal protections from discrimination because of those characteristics. These characteristics include race, color, religion, national origin, age, gender, pregnancy status, disabilities and more.

Here’s how something could quickly go wrong. Let’s say you obtain a piece of information that theoretically could lead to your not hiring a candidate. Then let’s say you don’t hire that candidate, but this piece of information had no bearing on your decision whatsoever. The candidate could still claim a connection between your hiring decision and an employment or labor law violation.

Here’s another issue to consider. If your investigation includes a review of the job applicants’ credit history, financial history, driver’s license verification and/or other pieces of related information, you may run afoul of the U.S. Fair Credit Reporting Act.

Employee Use of the Internet

As of September 2016, 87 percent of people in the United States use the internet, according to PewInternet.org. And, according to another PewInternet.org report from November 2016, 79 percent of Americans who use the internet are on Facebook. Smaller percentages of people are on other social media channels, such as Instagram (32 percent), Pinterest (31 percent), LinkedIn (29 percent) and Twitter (24 percent).

The bottom line, though, is that virtually every veterinary practice in the country will have at least some employees who use the internet – so, how do you, as a practice, monitor employees’ internet use while on the clock? Employees want privacy in their internet use, whereas the practice wants to make sure that time on the clock is well spent. Employers also want to ensure that computer use in the practice does not involve any inappropriate or even illegal activities.

The solution? However you choose to monitor employee usage, do so consistently, and create a clear written policy about internet use during company hours. If you don’t provide this policy, then employees could have justification for a breach of privacy lawsuit. If you decide to monitor, what are your options? Some practices may decide to install site-blocking software on all office computers or use software that limits the amount of time that someone can browse a non-work-related site.

What about texting? Should your employees be allowed to text during work hours? Again, a clear written policy about text use is crucial so employees know what is and isn’t acceptable. When crafting the policy, consider context. Having an employee ask his or her child to text when he or she is home from school is a very different situation from an employee who texts about party plans when he or she should be helping with an agitated patient.

Internet Harassment and Cyber Bullying in the Workplace

A serious downside to the internet is online harassment and cyber bullying, and that unfortunately can take place among coworkers. And, at the risk of sounding like a broken record, a clear written policy about how online harassment and cyber bullying will not be tolerated is crucial. In this statement, clearly define what you mean by harassment and by bullying, and state that examples given in your policy do not constitute the full range of behaviors that fall into these two categories. Share the consequences, up to and including termination, if the policies are not followed.

Consider working with your entire practice team to develop a values statement so that employees can play a role in its formation. Besides creating a useful statement, if you sit in on the meeting, you can likely identify people who are less likely to abide by it.

If you notice higher turnover, be especially vigilant in watching for bullying behaviors and, when identified, deal with them firmly. Also watch out for behaviors and statements that are presented as jokes, with people who don’t find them funny being told they have no sense of humor and need to lighten up.

If someone comes to you to report bullying or harassing behaviors – ones that are occurring to the person reporting them or to someone else – take them seriously. Slow down, listen and respond accordingly. Also consider what resources to offer to people being bullied or harassed, from stress management strategies to counseling services.

Conclusion

These are three of the more common legal issues connected to internet use in the workplace, but this is not a comprehensive list. Use this article as your starting point and remember to update your policies and procedures as internet technology evolves. Also watch for information about court cases where boundaries of cyber bullying are adjudicated in the courtroom.

 

When Can an Employer Influence an Employee’s Healthcare?

When Can an Employer Influence an Employee’s Healthcare?

Kellie G. Olah, CVPM, SPHR

Veterinary Business Advisors, Inc.

Although few if any employees would object if their workplace offered free gym memberships or access to voluntary smoking cessation programs, the situation could be quite different if certain health benchmarks or procedures were made mandatory. 

This therefore raises the question of when an employer can require employees to have a vaccine, for example, or to stop smoking, lose weight, or comply with other health-related actions, including with legal activities that take place outside the workplace.

Here is some guidance on four different topics.

COVID-19 Vaccines

With more than one COVID-19 vaccine on the horizon, the question of whether employers can mandate vaccinations is a hot topic, especially in workplaces that provide health-related services—and, in general, the answer is “yes.” Vaccinations can in fact be required, given that employers appropriately consider any requests for religious and medical accommodations.

More specifically, employers who plan to mandate the vaccine should consider:

  • Religious accommodation requests under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964: How a “sincerely held religious belief” is defined will depend upon the court; in general, a personal objection to a vaccine—or an ethical one—is not sufficient and, even if such a sincerely held belief is effectively established, an employer can still mandate the vaccination if the lack of one will create an undue hardship for the company.
  • Medical accommodations requests under the American with Disabilities Act (ADA): Employees who work for companies that will require a vaccine and want to obtain a medical accommodation must provide evidence for a disability that’s covered by the ADA. As far as vaccine sensitivity or allergies go, court decisions have been split over whether those qualify.

Although it’s COVID-19 that is bringing this issue to the forefront, the topic of mandatory vaccinations is not new. The same debates that will likely occur have already happened in connection with the flu vaccine, with case law currently existing in places where employees would be providing direct patient case. How court decisions will unfold during the pandemic era—and whether current case law will be upheld for COVID-19—remains to be seen.

If, after examining pros and cons, your practice plans to have a mandatory vaccination requirement, create a carefully written policy so that employees are clear about what’s required, including the process for requesting accommodations or waivers. When vaccination time draws near, be prepared to address any requests for accommodations thoughtfully and consistently, and then carefully document what takes place.

Smoking Cessation

People who smoke are, overall, sick more often, using up more sick days. Because of this, they use their health insurance more often than non-smokers. In general, they often take more breaks at work, usually because they want to smoke a cigarette.

Companies that are concerned about how smoking can affect a worker’s absenteeism rates and productivity during the day may decide to implement a mandatory smoking cessation policy. This policy may, for example, give employees a certain time frame to stop smoking and, to help, the company may decide to cover the costs of a smoking cessation program. Companies that provide health care benefits for employees may be more likely to implement a required cessation policy because employees who smoke are more expensive to cover than non-smokers.

But is that legal?

As far as federal law goes, this issue isn’t addressed. So, to discern whether your practice could implement this kind of policy, look at your state laws—more specifically, looking for any “lifestyle discrimination” or “off-duty conduct” laws. In some states, employers cannot dictate whether or not an employee engages in a legal activity on their own time at a location outside the workplace. In states where these laws don’t exist, your practice may be able to create a policy where employees must stop smoking as a condition of continued employment.

Weight Loss Mandates

Now, what about workplaces that require employees to manage their weight, either because of health or health care concerns, or because it projects the wrong image for a company? Is this possible?

First, weight is not a protected class under federal law, unlike race, age, gender and so forth. So, this means that employers can often legally fire employees who are overweight. Having said that, if an employee’s weight qualifies as a disability, an employer who terminates that employee may be engaging in disability discrimination, according to ADA. Plus, if a company did decide to fire overweight employees—and this disproportionately affected ones of a particular gender or certain race—this may not be legal.

It’s also important to look at state and city law to see what, if any of them, provide relevant anti-discrimination protection for employees. In the case of weight issues, the state of Michigan and a few cities, including Washington D.C. and San Francisco, protect employees from weight-related discrimination. Because new laws are put on the books all the time, check yours before creating any policies that may run contrary to them.

Also consider the Affordable Care Act (ACA) as well as the ADA before requiring employees to be part of weight loss programs. By requiring them to set weight loss goals and weigh in to continue receiving benefits or to avoid work-related discipline, this could be considered illegal under both of these laws.

Next Steps

If your practice is considering the implementation of any of these health-related requirements for employees, it makes sense to consult with your human resources attorney before creating a policy and then to have the attorney check it before it is shared.

Once a policy is approved, ensure that everyone in the workplace receives a copy (it can be wise to have them sign that they’ve received their copy) and set aside a time to discuss the new policy with them and answer any questions.

Also, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) encourages employers to implement workplace health programs and policies to “meet the health and safety needs of all employees.” This can include offering health education workshops, providing employees with access to local gyms, having a tobacco-free workplace, providing healthy snacks, and creating an environment that values health and wellness.

Steps include conducting a workplace health assessment and then planning an appropriate program to meet employee needs. Implement and monitor the program to determine its impact and adjust elements of the program, as needed, for optimal success.

Sidebar: Pregnancy-Related Discrimination

As a related matter, ensure that your workplace policies do not potentially discriminate against pregnant employees. When the Pregnancy Discrimination Act amended Title VII, this effectively provided federal protection for them. This means that an employer cannot have special pregnancy-related procedures when it comes to addressing an employee’s ability or inability to work. If, for example, an employee temporarily can’t perform job duties because of her pregnancy, the employer must respond in the same way that they would for any other temporarily disabled employees.

In other words, if non-pregnant employees who are temporarily disabled can modify their work tasks or take on other tasks, or can take a leave, the same must be made available for employees who need accommodations because of pregnancy.

Plus, pregnant employees must be allowed to continue their job as long as they are able. If an employee needs some time off because of pregnancy-related issues, but is able to return to work, the employer cannot require her to stay off work until after the baby is born or require a certain amount of time off duty after childbirth.

Navigating the Haze of CBD Legalities in Equine Practice

Navigating the Haze of CBD Legalities in Equine Practice

CBD is becoming increasingly popular. However, a veterinarian turned attorney warns equine practitioners to tread cautiously when it comes to discussing CBD products with clients.

Posted by Stacey Oke, DVM, MSc I Jan 12, 2021 I AAEP Convention, AAEP Convention 2020, Horse Care, National & U.S. Legalities, Nutrition, State & Local Legalities, Supplements, Vet and Professional, Welfare and Industry

Are you an equine veterinarian interested in stocking, selling, and/or recommending CBD in your practice? Tread cautiously, Charlotte Lacroix, DVM,JD, a veterinarian turned attorney said during the 2020 American Association of Equine Practitioners’ Convention, held virtually.

In fact, you should check with your malpractice insurance provider as well as your state’s licensing board before even discussing CBD products with your clients, never mind selling or stocking them.

“Six states’ licensing bodies acknowledge that a veterinarian could lose their license if they even discuss CBD, two states said you can have a conversation with your clients but only if they initiate the conversation, and 18 states you may discuss CBD products but you cannot prescribe or dispense them,” said Lacroix.

Why is there such a fuss over hemp, which contains only trace amounts {<0.03%) of THC (the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana) and is decriminalized for human use in several states? Lacroix points out the following:

  • Even though a state may deem CBD legal for human use, it is still illegal at the federal level;
  • The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not approve the use of hemp in any form in animals;
  • The FDA has already approved CBD in humans as a A product cannot now be introduced as a nutritional supplement if it is an approved drug;
  • Nutritional supplements must contain one or more dietary ingredients that are naturally occurring nutrients in the horse’s CBD is not naturally found in animals; therefore, CBD cannot by itself be a nutritional supplement;
  • Nutritional supplements cannot have any claims to treat, mitigate, or prevent disease. Otherwise, they would be drugs and would need to be approved by the If you were in a court of law, how would you explain why you were recommending CBD to your client? Most veterinarians would need to acknowledge it’s to treat a specific condition such as pain/lameness/inflammation, anxiety/stress, and stereotypic behaviors, among others; and
  • Little research has been published supporting the use of CBD in Most of the data come from research conducted in small animals.

 

CBD is widely available, and owners already used it prolifically. Is it really illegal for veterinarians then to promote its usage, even if the product was purchased by the owner? The short answer is yes. However, the FDA simply does not have the resources available to stop this activity. It’s like speeding. We all know it’s illegal, but people are willing to push their luck knowing their chances of getting caught are relatively low overall.

Lacroix added that it is not illegal for owners to administer CBD to their own animals, because they are not veterinarians licensed and regulated by the government. It is also not illegal for manufacturers to sell if they do not make a treatment claim.

“In summary, while CBD may ultimately prove to be a wonderful treatment modality, it cannot currently be recommended, sold, or stocked by veterinarians,” concluded Lacroix.

The American Veterinary Medical Association has resources and provides additional information on using CBD in clinical practice. Equine veterinarians are encouraged to review these resources before deciding whether to integrate CBD into their practices.

Read the article online originally posted by The Horse HERE

 

How to Manage Narcissistic Personality Disorder

How to Manage Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Veterinary Business Advisors, Inc.

www.veterinarybusinessadvisors.com

*Principles of this blog are based off the National Business Institute’s course on “Dealing with Narcissistic Personality Disorder in the Legal Practice: Clients, Counsel, and Others”.

Whether a client or a coworker, unhealthy narcissism can derail an otherwise straightforward experience together.

In 2020, there were 7 million American adults who have NPD or narcistic style. People who have this tend to see others as objects for their personal gratification, or as potential threats.  Their world view tends to be win or lose. When those diagnosed with NPD, behavior traits include:

      • Lack of empathy
      • Grandiose sense of self-importance
      • Excessively concerned about their image
      • Dirven to seek attention and admiration
      • Largely superficial relationships
      • Feel entitled to manipulate or exploit others
      • Rarely admit they are wrong
      • Become enraged when they feel disrespected or humiliated
      • Play the victim or martyr

How do you know or feel in the presence of narcissists? You can feel often belittled, under scrutiny or even judged, as if nothing you are doing is good enough, among many other feelings. Unfortunately, narcissists hide behind a façade of fear.

Working with Narcissists & Communicating with Clients with NPD –

The Narcissist’s Code – have you ever had a client or colleague that you sense may exhibit these traits? It’s helpful to know what may be motivating them, especially if it’s not obvious. One of the key points is that image is everything for them.  Next is getting attention – it’s often when they feel listened to or admired – they feel expansive and fueled. If they are not at the center of attention, they can feel depressed, and often aggressive. Honesty is optional for them! Narcissist’s can be great liars as they seek image enhancement, being incredibly convincing in the moment. Next, they tend to believe others are either against them or out to get them.  Narcissists tend to be driven by emotions and impulses. Winning is everything for them. Knowing these traits can allow you to be aware, and even create strategies to respond.

What could this look like with a potential client? Clients could think they know more or better than you as the veterinarian or technician, and will even demean or manipulate other members of your staff.  They expect to be admired and rules are an exception to them.

Key Tip: A practical tip to respond include sharing that their treatment doesn’t feel respectful, which can ultimately interfere with helping them achieve their goals.

DON’T DO
Argue with them Authentically praise their strong points
Try to get them to accept responsibility Educate them on possible consequences, then let them choose
Take what they say personally Recognize that they are like this with everybody
Argue for a win-win approach Focus the narcissist on his/her interests rather than what the opposing party receives
Respond to dramatics or ultimatums Return to the narcissist’s goals and interests
Take the bait when criticized Reassure them that you are on their side, and refocus on the case
Overlook any failures to follow your policies Document, document, document. Make exceptions to your policies sparingly, if at all.

It can often be incredibly mentally and emotionally draining when dealing with someone who exhibits NPD.  It’s important however, to hold onto your voice and set boundaries.  It is not your responsibility to fix them. Dr. Dan Neuharth shares the “11 Things NOT to Do with Narcissists”:

  1. Don’t take them at face value
  2. Don’t over-share personal information
  3. Don’t feel a need to justify your thoughts, feelings or actions
  4. Don’t minimize their dysfunctional behavior
  5. Don’t expect them to take responsibility
  6. Don’t assume they share your values and worldview
  7. Don’t try to beat them at their own game
  8. Don’t take their actions personally
  9. Don’t expect empathy or fairness
  10. Don’t expect them to change
  11. Don’t underestimate the power of narcissism

Many of this can be easier said than done, but try to remember: in most cases, it’s not your responsibility to satisfy their cravings for admiration and praise. We can have compassion for the suffering of narcissists, but it does not mean excusing them for their narcissistic actions. Rather, focusing on the patient or case at hand, focusing on facts and trying a tip or two from the above table.

Compensation Best Practices in 2021

Compensation Best Practices in 2021

Veterinary Business Advisors, Inc.

www.veterinarybusinessadvisors.com

It would be so simple if practice owners could open a fortune cookie for each one of their employees and find the method by which to fairly compensate them.  While there are commonly accepted methods of compensation, their implementation in veterinary practices varies because different entrepreneurs have different business goals.  Also, “fairness” is a relative term that introduces variability into an equation that might otherwise be consistent from practice to practice.  This article describes the factors that practice owners should consider when determining compensation for veterinarians and paraprofessional staff.

Benchmarks

Below is a table that provides a snapshot of current key indicators available for small animal companion practices.  It is not meant to be all-inclusive, but rather to provide some guidelines that enable managers to take the practice’s compensation pulse. They can then determine if the practice is on track for the next year or needs to perform some diagnostics to prevent a fiscal derailment. Veterinary Compensation

Many periodicals and books discuss the factors one should consider in establishing a compensation policy for veterinarians. Of particular importance is the question of whether compensation should consist of a fixed salary, a percentage of the revenue generated by the veterinarian and collected by the practice (i.e., commission-based), or a combination of the two. If a commission-based component is present, it is also important to consider how the revenue figure will be calculated. Will it be limited to revenues generated from professional services, or will it include revenues generated from items like over-the-counter medications and foods?    Percentages can also vary in relation to the magnitude of the revenue number that is generated.  Implementing compensation systems in practice requires attention to the details of production calculation and timing of payment. The key to remember is there is NO one size fits all when determining the appropriate compensation for veterinary and non-veterinary staff.  There are numerous factors that go into assessing the actual method used for compensation, which often requires the assistance of an advisor.

National starting salary information is generally published annually in the Journal of the AVMA. (See: Employment, starting salaries, and educational indebtedness of year-2013 graduates of US veterinary medical colleges, October 1, 2013, Vol. 243, No. 7, Pages 983-987; Employment of male and female graduates of US veterinary medical colleges,  JAVMA October 1, 2011, Vol. 239, No. 7, Pages 953-957.) See also the latest biennial edition of the American Animal Hospital Association’s Compensation and Benefits-An In-Depth Look and the AVMA’s Economic Report on Veterinarians and Veterinary Practices (Wise, J., Center for Information Management, AVMA, Shaumberg, IL (Tel: 847-925-8070). Two periodicals, Veterinary Economics and Veterinary Hospital Management Association Newsletter, also regularly publish helpful articles. In addition, Wutchiett Tumblin and Veterinary Economics published Benchmarks 2019 Well Managed Practices.

Paraprofessional Compensation

Paraprofessionals are often compensated on an hourly basis and the industry has yet to develop widely adopted performance-based compensation models. Paraprofessionals generally report low job satisfaction and high turnover rates. In the 2016 NAVTA Demographic Survey, 38% of veterinary technicians left the practice due to insufficient pay, 20% due to lack of respect from an employer, 20% from burnout and 14% because of the lack of benefits. Full time technicians reported a salary between $15-20 per hour, while part-time technicians reported $14-16 per hour. After taxes, even the well-paid veterinary technicians are only slightly above what is considered the poverty line for a family of four in the United States ($24,300).

According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay for veterinary technicians was $16.55 per hour in 2018. By comparison, a JAVMA published study on Jan. 1, 2016 of certified veterinary technician specialists reported that the weighted mean pay rate in 2013 was $23.50 per hour.

In AAHA’s 2020 Compensation & Benefits survey, average veterinary employee turnover was 23%.  Turnover was 32.5% for receptionists, 23.4% for veterinary technicians, 10.3% for managers, 16% for associate veterinarians, and 32.9% for all other staff. To compare with the national workforce, Compdata’s Annual Compensation Survey showed that national average turnover was 15.9% in 2010 and 19.3% in 2018.  The chart above can be helpful to calculate a practice’s turnover expenses. Turnover is a pervasive and expensive problem that can be mitigated by learning how to properly motivate employees.