In the latest Weekly Wright Report:
Spring Cleaning Priorities for Your Business
On this, the first day of Spring 2019, we take a few moments to ignore the junk piling up in our garages at home and focus on ways to implement the spirit of Spring cleaning to improve our businesses. Pick one or all 5 and get started today.
1. Dump old policies
Have you merged sick and vacation time into PTO? Instituted casual Friday but the dress code still says business attire every day? Now is a great time to revisit those old policies and update them so that employees have clear guidelines and expectations. In many cases, it may just be a matter of conforming them to current practices.
2. Put your document retention policy to work
No policy in place? It’s definitely time to create one. We are all overwhelmed with data today, including digital and paper files, so a consistent purging process is necessary to manage the volume and ensure that important records are easily accessible when needed.
Before you go crazy with the shredder and delete button, consider whether there are any litigation holds in place or if your industry is regulated such that advertising material (website archives) must be maintained for a certain time.
3. Evaluate your hiring needs
Spring is hiring season for upcoming May grads and a time when seasoned workers look to make a move, inspired by the warm weather and themes of new life and renewal.
Current college students are also looking for summer intern/externship opportunities and many programs now have experiential components requiring students to earn a few credits in the field. Hosting a student for the summer is a great way to “test-drive” an entry-level hire for next year and get a little extra help during vacation season as long are you’re committed to offering a quality, educational experience. The Department of Labor does not allow businesses to use unpaid interns to fill otherwise paid positions.
4. Eliminate unneeded expenses (and stuff)
Subscriptions and services tend to accumulate over time and those ongoing charges really add up over time. Unread magazines and unused supplies clutter up the office, making it feel chaotic. Recycling the pile now is only a temporary solution; ending the subscription is a permanent fix. Most industry organizations are happy to provide their news and updates online and save the cost of printing and mailing the paper copy anyway.Take it one step further and re-direct the savings you generated to plan a company picnic or outing. Nothing says Spring like making plans for the Summer!
5. Refresh content
Outdated and obsolete content, on your website and in print, can be frustrating for clients, leading to confusion and potentially losing sales. Highlighting new products or services will help to cross-market to existing clients and open the door to new ones. Good quality, current marketing materials enable your team to serve client needs more efficiently by answering common questions and providing background information, so it is absolutely worth the effort to update them occasionally.
As an added bonus, you can also clean out the office refrigerator. You know it needs it.
If you need some guidance on any of these or other Spring cleaning priorities for your business, contact Lisa D. Sparks, firstname.lastname@example.org, or your WCS attorney. Except for the fridge – that’s all you.
Additional ideas? A Spring initiative that you’re really proud of? Let us know!
Fourth Circuit Confirms That Employee Medical Exams Pose ADA Liability Risk
By: Paul Evelius
McLeod Health, which operates healthcare facilities across a swath of South Carolina, probably figured it was on solid ground when it sent longtime employee Cecilia Whitten, who suffers from leg weakness due to lifelong “hypoplasia,” to its occupational health office. Because she had recently fallen on multiple occasions, the company told her, it wanted to make sure its workplace was safe for her. “That would be nice,” answered Whitten, who, as editor of the McLeod’s internal newsletter, typically traveled among its various campuses to interview employees and take photos. At the company’s prodding, the compliant Whitten then underwent fitness-for-duty and functional-capacity exams which led to an occupational therapist saying she could not safely do her job and McLeod discharging her.
Not so nice, thought Whitten. And maybe not so legal, think both the EEOC, which sued McCleod on Whitten’s behalf under the Americans with Disabilities Act (the “ADA”), and the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, which says in a January 31 decision that the case must proceed to trial. Under EEOC guidelines enforcing the ADA, notes the three-judge panel, such medical examinations are permissible only when the employer reasonably believes that a medical condition either impairs the employee’s ability to perform an essential job function or renders her a direct threat to the safety of herself or others. In the Court’s view, a reasonable person could find that Whitten’s job duties did not require her to physically navigate the company’s various campuses to conduct interviews and that McLeod thus violated the ADA by both forcing her to undergo medical examination and firing her. After all, the Court observes, McLeod’s written description of Whitten’s job makes no mention of such a requirement and there is evidence that Whitten could have conducted interviews and collected other forms of newsletter content by phone.
So employers are on notice that the Fourth Circuit, whose jurisdiction includes Maryland, will not rubber-stamp employer-imposed medical exams. While heeding that warning, companies should beware of shipping employees to ready-to-please medical practitioners. McLeod’s occupational therapist “befuddled” the Fourth Circuit with the following rationale for his conclusion that Whitten was a 75% fall risk in all work-related tasks: “[She’s] fallen at home. “[She’s] fallen at restaurants, and [she’s] fallen at work. One, two, three. 75 percent.” Sloppy approach, expensive lesson.
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