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HR Compliance: What Practice Owners Need to Know to Avoid a Lawsuit

Lauren Walchek
Posted by Lauren Walchek on January 12, 2022

As a healthcare practice owner or office manager, you know this: You are busy and don't have time for anything that doesn't directly involve the operation of your practice, keeping your customers happy, and making more money. As such, you may forget to track other things that seem less important.

Here's the truth: HR compliance is critical to the success of your business. Failure to comply with all local, state, and federal HR laws means you could face serious legal issues, including fines, penalties, and lawsuits. Your practice needs a strategy to ensure HR compliance. Thankfully, there are ways to ensure that you comply with all relevant HR statutes, thus ensuring your practice is protected from lawsuits and is well-positioned for future success.  HR Compliance: What Practice Owners Need to Know to Avoid a Lawsuit

What is HR compliance?

HR compliance refers to policies, processes, rules, and requirements imposed upon employers. These are laws that come from local, state, and government officials, and they may come in the form of direct laws or regulatory orders by the appropriate governmental entity.

As an employer, you are responsible for complying with these requirements. You are also responsible for record retention related to this compliance. After all, if you fail to keep the information that shows you obey local laws, you are putting your practice in danger if you are ever challenged. Furthermore, you must keep up to date with changes or updates to the law.

 

Looking for more information? Click here to learn more about HR compliance. 

 

What is HR's role in compliance?

A company's Human Resource department, or outside contractor, must ensure that the company meets all the appropriate legal requirements. They act as your HR business partner ensuring that they are always recording and retaining information, staying up to date about human resource challenges, and updating policies to avoid a lawsuit.

 

What are some examples of HR compliance issues?

Some common examples of HR compliance issues include:

  • Ensuring a practice has an up-to-date sexual harassment and anti-discrimination policies
  • Maintaining records for vacation, sick time, meal breaks, and rest periods. 
  • Managing leaves of absence.
  • Wage and hour compliance.
  • Requiring employees to take any legally mandated training. 

Recruiting strategies

HR Compliance: What Practice Owners Need to Know to Avoid a Lawsuit

All practices should be up to date with all EEOC laws and be aware of any additional state laws that may impact their recruiting and hiring processes. This is required for job interviews and placements, as companies must keep their recruiting strategies in line with these laws. The job interview and recruitment process should be standardized over the same position to avoid potential claims of discrimination.

At HR for Health, we have a variety of templates that you can use during job interviews. These include compliant sample questions, what questions you shouldn’t ask, an employment application, letters of employment, and more.

Benefits Compliance 

Practices can provide different benefits for people working in different positions, but things start to get tricky if this is the case for the same position, as there is the potential for it to bring up EEOC-related challenges. For example, if you have two vet assistants and offer them different benefits, you could set yourself up for a lawsuit if you aren’t prepared to explain the reason behind the difference. The danger of a lawsuit becomes even greater if there are differences among the two employees that could result in a discrimination claim. 

To safeguard yourself, the reason for these differences should be noted and recorded, and it should be justifiable in a court of law in the event of a lawsuit. You need to work to minimize any disparities for reasons related to the law and employee morale. 

Compliance Challenges that Practices Face

Record Retention

HR must be up to date with varying record retention laws, making sure they understand which records must be retained, how they can be accessed, and how long they can be retained. The laws do differ across states, so it is important to ensure you are following your particular state’s guidelines.

Leaves of Absence

Different states and municipalities have different laws related to sick time, comp time, and protected leaves of absence. Your HR department's job is to monitor these laws and ensure appropriate compliance and record keeping. In addition, HR should also be involved in every step of the leave process, including their engagement in the interactive process when handling leave requests.

Workplace Safety

Few issues are as important as workplace safety. Your HR department should stay ahead of any updates related to workplace safety. This includes complying with all requirements put forth by OSHA and/or any other regulatory entities. Taking safety seriously ensures that your company appropriately protects your employees, and it also demonstrates to your employees that they should care about safety as well. Furthermore, depending on your location and industry, you may have to make employees aware of certain protections and record when an accident occurs. 

If you need additional assistance, HR for Health can help you store OSHA documents or manage the documentation of workplace incidents. HR Compliance: What Practice Owners Need to Know to Avoid a Lawsuit

Notification of COVID-19 Exposure

This new area of law may induce quite a bit of confusion. You should let employees know when they have a COVID-19 exposure, but refer them to their primary care physician for additional questions. You should always check with the current CDC guidelines - as well as your state and local health departments - to ensure you are compliant and meeting all requirements. Furthermore, some states, such as California, have their own OSHA approved state plans. If this is the case for your state, you’ll need to make sure you are meeting these requirements. 

For more information on this complicated field, click here.

Independent Contractors

There are different guidelines for how you will classify an employee as an independent contractor or an employee. Many practices make the mistake of misclassifying temporary employees as independent contractors. Remember, most workers don’t qualify for such classification. These guidelines will vary by state, and there are also federal factors to consider. This makes a huge difference in terms of salary and benefits, and making a misclassification can potentially get very expensive. 

 

To learn more about who qualifies as an independent contractor, check out this guide: “Independent Contractor vs. Employee: What’s the Difference”.

 

HR Compliance: What Practice Owners Need to Know to Avoid a Lawsuit

If you need additional guidance or assistance, HR for Health has an HR Specialist team that can help evaluate your unique situation so that you have the information at your fingertips in order to make the appropriate determinations and classifications. 


Non-exempt Employees

A non-exempt employee is not exempt from overtime provisions or rest/meal breaks. Depending on the location, a practice may be subject to follow either federal or state law with regard to breaks and overtime. 

Non-exempt employees are generally also paid an hourly rate for their compensation. These employees may be subjected to different pay rates than exempt employees, including when an employee would be allowed to earn less than their regular hourly wage, such as during travel time, while attending conferences, and more.

How you classify an employee can have major impacts on their pay and benefits, and this can impact your bottom line. However, since a misclassification can cost you, it is vital that you keep your employee classifications in line with current law. 

Are You Now Completely Overwhelmed?

It's okay, and it's understandable! As you can see, HR compliance may be an easy concept to understand, but it is difficult to enforce. At the same time, it is vital that you and your practice fully engage in this area if you want to successfully recruit employees and avoid expensive fines and lawsuits.

How HR for Health Can Help

Many small medical and dental practices simply don't have the time, resources, or expertise to fully understand the extensive requirements that human resource law enforcement and proper record retention require. In other words, you may need outside expertise.

This is where HR for Health can help. Using our extensive knowledge of HR, our software and employees can help you execute your HR strategies and protect you from penalties that can be incurred if you fail to follow the law. We offer a selection of high-value features, including:

  • Cloud storage of all documents, allowing for easy access to your documents.
  • Benefits tracking.
  • Accurate timekeeping to the second for all non-exempt employees, ensuring that your employees take all their legally required meal and rest breaks.
  • Leave of absence and vacation tracking.
  • Record retention.

Interested in learning more? Set up a free, no-obligation consultation today.

Schedule an HR Consultation

Topics: compliance, employment law

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