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Lice, Bedbugs, OSHA and NLRA…Who Says HR Issues Are Boring?

Posted on: May 15th, 2013 | Category: Employee Relations, Government Regulatory & Compliance Issues, Human Resources, Our Blog, Talent Management

EWWWW!!! Not in the office!

Ewww!!!! Not in the office!

There are human resources issues out there that managers should take note of if they want to avoid regulatory issues. Here’s one that you can file under…um….gross.

Literally. You can.

That’s because we came across a very informative article published on the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) website entitled “Handling ‘Gross’ Things Tricky for HR Pros “ that covered all things, uncomfortable, icky, smelly and otherwise cringe-worthy about human bodily functions that can cause problems in the workplace.

Beyond being awkward to talk about, some of these issues can lead managers dangerously close to crossing certain lines in regards to regulatory violations. A prime example would be how a company handles bedbugs and lice. From the SHRM article:

Situations involving employees who have or are suspected of having bedbugs or lice pose unique challenges, particularly since employers have a duty under the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Act to keep the workplace free of recognized hazards, according to Danielle Urban, a partner in the Denver office of Fisher & Phillips, a national labor and employment law firm.
Employers need to be careful not to stifle any conversations related to possible infestations, since doing so may cause them to run afoul of the National Labor Relations Act.
If an employee reports that he or she has bedbugs or lice, the employer may ask the person to seek medical treatment, provide leave and allow the employee to return with proof the infestation has been treated. If the employee hasn’t disclosed the issue, but a colleague reports it, HR should ask for “credible evidence” to ensure it’s not a bullying or harassment situation, Urban said.
With credible evidence, HR should approach the employee in a “straightforward and discreet” manner to discuss the issue, Urban said.

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“Complying with ADA regulations in this situations should be top of mind as well,” says Bonnie Levitt, MSW, PHR, hireVision’s Director of Hiring Management/HR Manager. “If there could be an underlying medical condition or disability causing a disturbing habit or odor, accommodations may be appropriate and necessary.” However, when approaching these matters with employees, you should avoid asking questions about medical conditions or recommending a medical evaluation, she adds, and focus instead on the observable behaviors and how they are impacting the workplace.

Consider getting some help with those difficult conversations.

hireVision’s HR DirectLink services are targeted to help companies provide more of what employees want and need to do their best work, including employee relations and support needs. It’s a customized HR service so integrated into your environment that you’ll think we’re sitting in the office next door!

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