6 Frequently Asked Questions about Absence Management

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6 Frequently Asked Questions about Absence Management

Absence management comes in many different shapes and sizes. Oftentimes issues arise in the workplace regarding absence management or FMLA and the intricate compliance laws and requirements may make handling the issue more complicated than expected. ERC’s Help Desk compiled a list of frequently asked questions we receive from our local members and with the help of CareWorks, here’s the answers to those questions:
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Issue 3: How Would Marijuana Legalization Affect Employers?

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Issue 3: How Would Marijuana Legalization Affect Employers?

On November 3, 2015 Ohioans will make their way to the ballots and have the option to vote yes or no on Issue 3. If passed, Issue 3 would legalize the medical and recreational sale and use of marijuana in the state of Ohio. But what does it mean for employers?

We spoke with Jon Hyman, Partner at Meyers Roman Friedberg and Lewis, and ERC Partner, about what employers should be thinking about in case issue 3 does pass and how to prepare for its arrival.
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3 Facts about Measles and the Workplace

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In 2015, measles was rising health concern in the country. Organization's everywhere wondered what they should do in the event that one of their employees is diagnosed with measles, and how they can prevent other employees from future contact.

Here are four facts about what can and cannot happen when measles comes to your office.
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Employment Laws HR Professionals Should Know

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24 Employment Laws HR Professionals Should Know

In order for an organization to avoid costly legal fines and other penalties, compliance with employment laws is essential. Below are the employment laws that every HR professional should know.

1. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act is administered by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and covers an employer who has fifteen (15) or more employees and prohibits discrimination against any individual on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, and national origin.
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When ADA & FMLA and Workers Comp Intersect

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Workers' compensation laws, the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) are not mutually exclusive - they all can intersect. According to CareWorks, ERC's Preferred Partner, one of the most common mistakes employers make is failing to run workers' compensation and FMLA concurrently.

fmla and workers comp

Importance of Understanding the Intersection

Each of these laws serves a different purpose. Workers' compensation compensates employees who cannot work based on a work-related injury, ADA protects and aids individuals with a disability, and FMLA provides job protected leave to individuals with a serious medical condition. But, by qualifying under one law, an employee is not automatically disqualified from the others. If more than one law applies to the situation, then the injured worker must be afforded all the rights under each applicable law.
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ADA Compliance: How Much Is Enough?

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The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires that employers provide reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities. But how much accommodation is enough? When does an accommodation become unreasonable? How reasonable is reasonable?

Reasonable Accommodations Defined

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), reasonable accommodations are any effective changes or adjustments to a job or work environment that allow a qualified applicant or employee with a disability to perform the essential functions of the job.
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Rarely Performed Duties Can Be Essential Functions Under ADA

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The outcome of a recent court case reminds employers that when determining the essential functions of the job, how frequently they are performed is just one factor that should be considered.

Case Overview

In the 2013 case Knutson v. Schwan Food Company, Knutson was a general manager for one of the organization's depots whose job description stated that a manager must meet federal Department of Transportation (DOT) requirements to be eligible to periodically drive a delivery truck.
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Court: Random Alcohol Tests Not in Violation of ADA

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The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, in the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's (EEOC) case against U.S. Steel Corp., ruled that random tests for alcohol can be performed on probationary employees who work in safety sensitive positions, and that doing so does not violate the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

In the 2013 case, the EEOC argued that the company's policy of conducting breath alcohol testing at random on probationary employees could be considered a medical examination and that ADA restricts employers from requiring such exams unless it meets the standard of being "job related and consistent with business necessity."

Meanwhile, U.S. Steel held that its policy was lawful on several conditions, including that it was job related and consistent with business necessity, that it was part of a voluntary health and safety program negotiated and agreed upon with its union, and necessitated by the company's obligations under federal safety and environmental laws and regulations (Source: SHRM).

The court decision affirms that employers can take reasonable steps, including random alcohol tests, to keep workers safe on the job. Although, employers should proceed cautiously and still heed the EEOC's guidance regarding medical examinations under ADA.

Please note that by providing you with research information that may be contained in this article, ERC is not providing a qualified legal opinion. As such, research information that ERC provides to its members should not be relied upon or considered a substitute for legal advice. The information that we provide is for general employer use and not necessarily for individual application.

ADA/FMLA Training Course

6 Q&As: Managing Flu Season in the Workplace

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6 Q&As: Managing Flu Season in the Workplace

With flu season in our midst, many employers face challenges in managing sickness in the workplace. These challenges can include managing absenteeism, reducing or managing the prevalence of sickness in the workplace, supporting employees who must care for sick children, and in more rare cases, dealing with longer-term medical issues. Here is a Q&A guide on some of your most frequently asked questions related to these topics.

Q: How many sick days do employers typically provide?

A: On average, organizations usually provide 6-8 paid sick days annually, though many employers incorporate sick time into a paid time off bank.

Some industries tend to provide more sick time, particularly healthcare and non-profit organizations, which typically offer double the amount of sick time that other organizations provide.

Q: How should we handle pay for exempt employees who are sick?

A: Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), if an exempt employee misses less than one full day of work due to illness, you may not deduct his or her pay for the absence. This means, if they go home early or come in late due to illness, you may not dock their pay. Conversely, with hourly employees, your organization may deduct pay for any hours not worked due to illness, including a full day or less than full day.

Also, under FLSA, your organization is not obligated to provide pay for vacation or sick days (unless other state laws mandate this). Nonetheless, many employers provide these benefits to help handle pay situations when employees are sick.

Q: How can we prevent sickness from spreading in the workplace?

A: The workplace can be fertile ground for sickness to spread with employees working in close proximity to one another, especially common colds and flus. Here are a couple common ways to reduce the likelihood of this happening:

  • Provide flu shots once a year
  • Encourage sickness prevention via hand sanitizers and office cleanliness
  • Offer the ability for sick employees to work from home
  • Allow sick employees to stay at home and use their sick time if they are ill or contagious
  • Support employees' well-being by providing wellness resources/education and work-life balance

Q: What should we do when employees need to care for sick children?

A: Missing work to care for sick children is a challenge facing many working adults, who often feel they don't have enough paid sick time or flexible work arrangements to cover the days they need to take care of them.

There are a number of options you can offer in these circumstances. First, you can allow them to work at home, if possible, to care for their child. Second, you can provide a back-up/sick child care option or resource for employees to use. Third, you can allow them to use paid time off, make up work hours, work a flexible schedule, or provide family leave. Finally, if the situation warrants a serious health condition, providing FMLA leave may be advisable.

Q: What should we do about excessive absenteeism?

A: As a business, you need to institute and enforce acceptable boundaries for absenteeism in order to run your business smoothly via internal policies and procedures, such as an attendance policy.

But excessive absenteeism due to illness may actually be due to a legitimate medical condition which is covered by federal and state laws. In these cases, employers are obligated to comply with the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) or the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and must pursue the appropriate course of action.

For other more common illnesses and issues that are acute in nature, if an employee is not complying with your policy or if you have a legitimate reason to believe that abuse is taking place, you may pursue whatever disciplinary action is necessary, so long as it's consistent with past precedents and documented policy.

Q: How should we handle issues of work coverage when an employee is sick?

A: Make sure your organization has the appropriate back-up coverage for when an employee is out of the office ill. Succession and workforce planning of this nature is essential to the ongoing productivity in your organization.

Q: How should we manage a longer-term illness?

A: Unfortunately, sometimes illnesses that affect the workplace are not just common flus and colds. Prolonged illness brings many unanticipated challenges to the workplace: arranging for medical leave (short term disability, FMLA, personal leave, etc.) preparing for return to work, dealing with short or long-term accommodations, and handling staffing or work coverage issues.

These situations can often be stressful and difficult for the employer and employee alike, so it's important to approach them with as much patience and support as possible. Usually, when employers make collaborative arrangements with employees to help them in these situations, to the extent that it business operations are not significantly affected, they tend to be effective.

Employee illness is one of the most common issues employers face in the workplace, and in our experience, one of the most difficult ones to manage. Approaching this flu season and employee illness in general in a supportive but tactical manner can help you better manage your employees, their needs, and those of your business.

Please note that by providing you with research information that may be contained in this article, ERC is not providing a qualified legal opinion. As such, research information that ERC provides to its members should not be relied upon or considered a substitute for legal advice. The information that we provide is for general employer use and not necessarily for individual application.

View ERC's Absence Management Practices Survey Results

This report summarizes the results of ERC’s survey of organizations in Northeast Ohio on practices related to attendance and unscheduled absence.

View the Results

What is ADA?

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The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), enacted in 1990 and amended in 2008, prohibits private employers with 15 or more employees, state and local governments, employment agencies, and labor unions from discriminating against qualified individuals with disabilities in employment activities. Such activities include hiring, termination, training, promotion, compensation, and other terms and conditions of employment.
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