Although many aesthetic medical practices may not have the ability to hire a full-time Human Resources Manager on staff, it doesn’t mean that they cannot gain access to leading expertise when it comes to employee relations. With new and varied business solutions now available to medical practices nationwide, access to a Human Resources team along with legal expertise is now simply a telephone call away. This interview with Michele Oliver, a Solution Center Advisor at CEDR HR Solutions, a leading employee relations firm based in Tucson, AZ, will help you understand not just how easy it is to work with the team at CEDR HR Solutions, but how critically important it is that you work with experts to help you create everything from an Employee Handbook to understanding hiring and firing techniques. To learn more about CEDR HR Solutions visit www.cedrsolutions.com. For a FREE consult CLICK HERE!
Michele, can you please tell us about your background and describe your role at CEDR HR Solutions?
I have been involved in Human Resources work for 20 years. I began as a high-volume recruiter, worked as an HR Generalist and HR Manager, and moved all the way up the corporate ladder to be the Vice President of HR for a Fortune 100 Company. My role at CEDR is quite diverse as we work with physicians from all over the U.S. and each practice needs a different solution for their employee issues, especially as State labor laws can differ. At CEDR we endeavour to be proactive in terms of rectifying employee problems before they get out of hand, and we also have a team of legal experts that are ready to guide and advise as necessary. It’s my job to distinguish the best ways we can serve each of our physician clients.
How important is Human Resources to an aesthetic medical practice?
Human Resources is VERY important to any medical practice. It’s a misconception that only large corporations such as IBM or Apple need a Human Resources department. Physician employers are six times more likely to be sued by an employee than by a patient. At CEDR we understand the perils faced in a medical practice. Our customers understand that it is safer to be working with a company that guides them with regard to recruiting and hiring, employee performance management, coaching leaders within the practice, and even coaching the doctors themselves at times on how to limit risk when dealing with employees. Labor law, employee relations, staff investigations, employee complaints, team building, training, vacation pay, hourly wage, etc. are all areas that fall under Human Resources. We also develop customized Employee Handbooks and encourage our customers to update them regularly, as this is one way that a doctor can protect themselves from frivolous lawsuits. An HR expert is a business partner who advises you so that you can make better, informed decisions for your practice.
How long has CEDR HR Solutions been working with the medical community?
CEDR has been working with doctors for 10 years. In fact, it’s our 10-year anniversary this year.
What has changed in terms of employee risk in the past decade?
On a State and Federal level many labor laws have been put into place over the past 10 years that are of obvious benefit to the employee. This is a good thing, as it is helping to regulate rights and expectations in the workplace, thereby cutting risk. However, many of the physicians I speak with on a daily basis still don’t really understand the importance of the employee atmosphere, including rules and regulations, and that is where the true risk lies. If a doctor does not understand simple rules, such as sick and vacation pay, they can really land themselves in trouble over bigger issues.
Would you say that the average employee is more educated than the doctor when it comes to labor laws?
Yes. Doctors leave medical school to be a doctor, not a business owner, so they are not schooled in anything to do with running a practice. We find that the average employee is knowledgeable and sometimes has just enough information to be dangerous, especially if a doctor does not have a solid Employee Handbook available. Plus, the Internet is rife with webpages on this very subject and all an employee needs to do is Google their concern. This is not something a doctor should feel bad about, but they should see this as a potential threat to their livelihood and take the steps necessary to protect themselves with the use of Human Resources expertise. It is important for doctors to know that as their business starts to grow, so can their employee-related problems. Setting systems in place that adequately and safely manage employees is critical from the start.
How easy is it for an employee to file a lawsuit against a doctor?
It’s very easy. Anyone can file a lawsuit at any time for any reason. There is no obstacle to filing an employee claim and it can cost as little as $250. Plus, it is really easy for a staff member to find an employment law attorney to listen to their tales of woe and build a case. In California, employment law attorneys advertise on billboards, and recently in Pennsylvania a class of law students, well-meaning I am sure, put out a guide for employees about “how” and “what” to sue their employers for.
Can an Employee Handbook really offer protection from a disgruntled employee?
At CEDR HR Solutions one of our most valuable services is the creation of a customized Employee Handbook for every medical practice that we work with. There is expertise required in drafting a legally compliant handbook, and the only way to do that is to have knowledge of the law federally and locally. CEDR receives daily updates on changes in employee law and can easily update any Employee Handbook, thereby assuring our clients that they are always up to date.
What makes a CEDR Employee Handbook unique?
If a customer does not already have an Employee Handbook in place, our team meets with the doctor to learn about and understand the practice, the employees, what future anticipated employee growth there might be, and other items relevant to the development of their personalized handbook. If a doctor already has an existing handbook that perhaps they made themselves, copied from an online source, or received from a colleague, the first thing we do is remove any non-compliant policies. We do this because having a non-compliant Employee Handbook is grounds for a lawsuit. We will then customize the handbook to the practice and develop what we consider a guide to managing employee day-to-day situations, whether it’s how much vacation time you offer, maternity leave and pay, office hours, dress standards, practice safety protocols, as well as Federal and State laws that affect the practice. The kind of Employee Handbook we develop is an essential practice tool that should be read by every employee and memorized by those in management positions. It is not just a book that sits on a shelf.
If an employee files a lawsuit against a practice, can the doctor send the Practice Manager to handle court dates, depositions, etc. on their behalf?
Unfortunately, it is almost always the doctor who must appear in court or attend an arbitration hearing. You can’t imagine the loss in earnings, as well as all the associated costs, if this happens.
What is the general cost to a doctor should an employee file suit?
That’s a question that cannot be answered because it depends on the lawsuit. Should an employee file suit, bear in mind that it only costs them up to $250 to begin because their attorney is most likely going to work on a commission basis. For a doctor to hire a respectable law firm their beginning retainer fee is going to be close to $5,000, and work is billable anywhere from $300 to $500 per hour. We recently met a doctor from Texas who spent over $50,000 on a wrongful termination suit that they lost, and they had to allow the employee to return to the practice or pay steeper penalties. This was a suit that could have been avoided completely had that doctor consulted CEDR first.
How long does an average employee lawsuit last?
On average an employee lawsuit can last 12 to 15 months or longer if it goes all the way to a court hearing. If there is an arbitration agreement in place, it could take six months to one year. Either way that’s time away from the office where the doctor is not seeing patients, as well as money that they’re paying out to staff who are still working during their absence, and attorney fees.
Could the wrongful termination lawsuit in Texas have been avoided had the doctor consulted with CEDR first?
Absolutely. He had good reason to terminate the employee; however, it was how he worded the termination that landed him in trouble. Without going into too much detail, the employee should have been fired for using company time and company equipment to conduct personal email. The doctor worded the cause of dismissal differently and it didn’t hold up in court. I always tell all our doctors to “tap the brakes” before terminating an employee and to give us a call. If the doctor is a member-doctor they are going to talk to myself or one of the attorneys on staff and we will do a risk assessment, plus discuss the right protocols with them. We will draft a termination document, walk them through the process and coach them on how to conduct the final meeting.
What are your TOP HR tips that every plastic and cosmetic surgery should know?
- Know the rules for interviewing a new staff member.
- Check references.
- Have a hiring protocol in place.
- Have proper documentation in place, i.e. employee agreement, payroll system, health insurance, Employee Handbook, etc.
- Make sure new hires (and current staff if the Employee Handbook is new) sign off on the Employee Handbook so they are aware of the policies of the office and agree that they can work under those policies.
- If you’re going to terminate an employee seek advice from an HR expert first.
- Have good, solid policies in place so employees know how to bring concerns to you before they get too big to handle.
To learn more about CEDR HR Solutions visit www.cedrsolutions.com. If you have an employee issue that you need to discuss but are not yet a CEDR member, call 866-414-6056 to speak with a Solution Center Advisor. For a FREE consult CLICK HERE!
To listen to Michele Oliver’s interview on Aesthetic Insider Radio CLICK HERE!
TO LEARN MORE ABOUT HOW CEDR HR SOLUTIONS CAN HELP YOUR PRACTICE, READ THESE ARTICLES!