Becky: Hey everybody, Welcome, Welcome!! And thanks for tuning into another podcast edition here on The Pharmacy Podcast Guide. I’m Becky Templeton, I guess I did a good enough job on my last cohosting appearance, they asked me to come back again! Today we are going to be talking about a topic that can be a little uncomfortable for people. I’m already making kind of a strained funny face right now, I’ve got my little noise all crinkled up. But it is something every employer needs to be aware of, “Keeping in Compliance when Terminating Employees”.
Author Tammy Cohen shared, “A Great Employee is like a four leaf clover, Hard to find & Lucky to have.” Over time even our most valued employees may leave; either because of a career advancement, retirement, educational pursuits; in the end those are all things to celebrate. As an employee grows with in your company, they are going to eventually climb to a point on your ladder, where they need to hop to another company’s ladder to keep on growing.
Consequently, there are times when employees leave either on their own accord or by your encouragement because things just aren’t working out the way either party hoped; sometimes the employee just don’t fit in to our workflow, maybe there’s a personality conflict, or they cannot perform the tasks of the job. And sometimes we just find out people aren’t who we thought they were, they turn out to be dishonest, their work ethic isn’t as stellar as we had hoped, or maybe they are in direct violation of any number of items in your employee handbook. In the end, every person is different and while each situation should be handled differently, we all must be cognizant of the ramifications pertaining to compliance and the departure of an employee.
Today we are joined by Compliance Guru himself, the HIPAA Guy, and our very own Pharmacy Compliance Guide Mr. Jeff Hedges, thank you so much for joining us today.
Jeff: I’m happy to be here, and glad to help share this information with our small business owners.
Becky: We know that no employer likes to terminate an employee; from the business standpoint- there’s an open position that we must re-hire and re-train, it can be taxing on the rest of the staff and difficult for managers to try to work in interviews and screening processes into their already jam packed schedules. And then there’s the additional emotional tie as well- these folks maybe leaving unexpectedly or under strained situations, and there’s personal friendships have been forged and they’re now kind of dicey, so it can be very difficult.
Jeff: Difficult is an understatement
Becky: With so many regulations, PHI, and privacy concerns how in the world do you prepare for an employee termination way before it even becomes a necessary discussion?
Jeff: Every employer, especially pharmacies, need to have a good hiring process and an employee handbook is a must. Do you have one? When was the last time you read it? How big is it? I have read hundreds of handbooks, the good, the bad and the ugly. One thing I’ve found is certain, if your handbook is less than 10 pages or greater than 30 pages, it is not working for you. The employee handbook should spell out your hiring and termination procedures. The employee handbook should not be your pharmacy’s policy and procedure manual.
Becky: What extra things should the Handbook include?
Jeff: Your Vacation time, Sick time and personal days, disciplinary actions, Standards of Conduct, what is appropriate dress, language, confidentiality requirements and HIPAA confidentiality requirements, and spell the EEO and ADA requirements.
Becky: So to recap, we need to ensure we have structure and clarity on expectations but not details into the day to day operations.
Jeff: That’s correct
Becky: Now let’s talk a little more about terminations since that’s today’s topic. Do you handle every employee termination the same way?
Jeff: No, when an employee leaves you, either they resign or you terminate the person. When an employee resigns, the employee will give you normally a two week notice. You will have the opportunity to ask why they are leaving, ask questions about your operation and what suggestions they may have for the future. You should have an exit interview. You document that exit interview and you also need to have a document for the employee to sign so they understand the information they know about your patients and their medical conditions. This information must stay confidential after they leave your employment. The HIPAA statutes are straight forward and very stringent. The ex-employees are bound by confidentiality and cannot disclose this information. They need to understand if they do, they are personally responsible and the Office of Civil Rights usually gives these cases to the State Attorney General to prosecute.
Becky: Yikes, I don’t think anyone wants to chat with OCR or the Attorney General’s office.
Jeff: No definitely not.
Becky: So, it’s always a good idea to have those HIPAA training certificates and training logs up to date and during an employee’s departure touch base on what they agreed to, maybe even give them a copy for their files.
Jeff: That’s right!
Becky: We all know that not every employee leaves on good terms like a retirement, transition to another company, starting a new business venture or education program. What can you share with us regarding employees who are asked to leave?
Jeff: Yes, when an employee is being terminated for cause, there are several other processes that you need to be aware of. First, you need to refer back to your employee handbook for offensives warranting immediate termination. There are certain items that cannot be tolerated, such as stealing, insubordination, harassing the staff, bringing an unauthorized weapon into the pharmacy and there are a few more. These individuals are terminated immediately, with an exit interview as to why they are being terminated, and given the HIPAA statement to sign for on-going confidentiality and must exit the building immediately. In some cases, you may need to retrieve your OSHA Workplace Violence Policy and Procedure and if warranted, implement that procedure. We live in a different world today and you never know what is going to happen and you never can be too cautious. Hopefully all those listening have or will create some type of Notification of ongoing responsibilities regarding PHI. Becky, can you share a few things for folks to consider if an employee leaves pertaining to an exit interview.
Becky: It’s fine to document reasons for leaving and manager/supervisor opinions, but from a compliance stand point, please also consider the following: 1. Notify the Privacy and Security Officer so they can take appropriate actions 2. If the employee had access to alarm systems, locking combinations, keypads- you’ll need to update/change those codes 3. Collect all keys, tokens, access cards, ID cards, parking cards, or any other item used to access your facility or equipment 4. Change any passwords for computer systems and programs- especially those to shared email accounts or web based programs 5. Be sure to gather all work devices: phones, laptops, tablets, etc 6. For Pharmacies be sure if this person has a POA for DEA Forms 222 and Electronic Orders- you notify your wholesaler and if they were a Certificate Holder you notify the DEA asap Jeff, do you have any words of advice for that extra step employers can take especially when the departure maybe a little heated?
Jeff: Yes, when you are counseling or terminating an employee, you are NEVER do it alone. You MUST always have a witness in the room with you. Never ever do this by yourself, this protects you from any type of comment or accusation after the fact. There is nothing more important than having a witness because you never know what is going to be said about you and that witness is there to protect you. Larger companies that have a HR department can tag team this with the employee’s supervisor. However, for smaller companies, you may need to call in a secondary manager or owner to sit as a silent observer during this process. I’d also like to share, it’s a good practice to have someone with the employee as they are gathering their items to ensure any employer owned items or sensitive items are not being taken out of the building with them.
Becky: Jeff you shared a lot of great information with us today and we could probably talk for an hour on general Personnel and HR matters. But I want to say thank you so much for taking time to share your insights.
Jeff: Sure thing! Can you share a few extra ways we can help our listeners?
Becky: Folks, we know sometimes it’s hard to create the items we discussed on your own- either you don’t have time or the know-how. Good news, the folks here at R.J. Hedges & Associates can help if you find yourself in this precarious boat. All of their compliance packages; Pharmacy, DMEPOS or Compounding come with a Human Resources section. Should you have questions, your dedicated Project Manager is only a phone call or email away. And by the way that person will also prepare your personnel folders, create and update your employee handbooks, how awesome is that? Plus as any rules change they will update your files seamlessly through the Compliance Portal®. Hey please make sure you tune in next time to the Pharmacy Compliance Guide, here on the Pharmacy Podcast Network as we discuss the Suspension of the Competitive Bid Suspend and What it means to you! Thanks so much folks, have a great day!