A legal expert is warning providers that effective communication could help prevent a costly violation after a skilled nursing facility was ordered to pay more than $13,000 in lost wages and damages for wrongfully terminating an employee who took maternity leave.
“When it comes to employee leave rights, a miscommunication or misunderstanding on the front end can easily result in a violation,” Jeff Brecht, an attorney and shareholder with Lane Powell, told McKnight’s Long-Term Care News.
The Care Center on Hazeltine, a skilled nursing facility in Van Nuys, CA, was ordered to pay $13,640 to a former employee following a Department of Labor investigation, the agency recently announced. The provider also presented a reinstatement offer to the former employee, but the offer was rejected.
Many leave law violations tend to stem from “misinformation or miscommunication,” according to Brecht.
“An employee who qualifies for leave may not be aware of what notice to provide to the senior living employer, or when or how to provide it, or even to whom. Similarly, where information is lacking, supervisors may not be aware of when an employee might be entitled to leave — and when it would be appropriate to loop in a human resources representative,” Brecht said.
In order to avoid this downfall, Brecht said providers should ensure their leave policies and related employee leave notices are included in new hire training materials and staff handbooks.
He also noted that administrators and supervisors should be trained on federal, state and local leave laws, which should include how to communicate with employees about leave-related issues, as well as when and how to request healthcare provider certification with regard to an employee’s serious health condition.
“Refresher leave law [compliance] training should also be periodically wrapped into staff and supervisor trainings and meetings. Supervisor training should also include information to assure that staff are not discriminated or retaliated against for exercising leave rights,” Brecht said.
“Because leave laws are not static, senior living provider employers should regularly have a legal professional review and update leave-related employment policies and practices,” he added.