Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Hiring Children and Teens as Summer Employees

The sun is finally shining and the end of school imminent, it is evident summer is here. With the change of seasons comes a rush of teens and college students looking for employment. In July 2012 there were 23.5 million employees between the ages of 16-24.  Businesses are smart to take advantage of this influx of economical labor, but it is important to understand the laws that surround hiring summer help.

The laws for hiring young people are dependent on age. Children under 14 may not work, except in very select jobs such as paper delivery, casual childcare, and acting. The following rules apply for children 14-15 years of age:
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  • work time must be outside school hours
  • 3 hours a day on school days and 8 hours a day on non-school days
  • 18 hours a week during a school week and 40 hours during a non-school week
  • work hours must fall between 7am and 7pm unless it is June 1 and Labor Day, in which it is extended to 9pm

16- and 17-year-olds can work unlimited hours.

Both state and federal labor laws that govern the hiring of anyone under 18.  It is important to note that the more stringent law always applies. Though not a federal requirement, the state of North Carolina requires anyone under 18 to have a work permit. A new addition to NC requirements is the following: 14- and 15-year-olds may prepare food, but may not bake, cook over an open flame, or use manual deep fat fryers.  

The benefits of hiring summer employees are numerous. It is more economical for an employer than a normal full-time employee. They can complete tedious and low-priority tasks that are still important to the company. For example, a doctor’s office that needs to scan paper charts can pay a teenager to sit at the scanner all day for a fraction of what they would pay a regular employee. It is also helpful to have extra bodies during the time when multiple employees take vacation. Productivity will not be hampered by a skeleton staff, and there will not be a backlog of work once full time employees return to work. It is also important to realize the long-term effect having summer help can have on a business. Forming relationships with high school and college students can lead to outstanding full time employees that are comfortable and familiar with the company once they have completed school.

Using summer employees is beneficial on many levels. However, it can also cause major problems for a business that does not follow the applicable laws. Consult an attorney if your company is considering the possibility of summer help. It is vital to know the regulations about benefits, wages, and age related laws. Violations can be very costly with penalties up to $11,000 per child, per violation. For repeat offenders or those that cause injury or death, fines can be up to $100,000. Protect yourself by allowing an attorney to guide you through the ins and outs of hiring young people.

Another alternative is hiring summer interns. For more information read Understanding the Legal Issues of Unpaid Interns.

Child Labor in Nonagricultural Occupations in North Carolina. (n.d.) NC Department of Labor. Retrieved on May 15, 2013 from
Employment and Unemployment Amount Youth Summary. (August 21, 2012.) Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved on May 15, 2013 from

Fact Sheet #43: Youth Employee Provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act for Nonagricultural Occupations. (July 2010). Department of Labor. Retrieved on May 15, 2013 from

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

HIPAA Allows for Disclosures in Certain Situations

The US Department of Health and Human Services recognizes that medical providers play a vital role in protecting the general public. There is information that is only available to providers, and they have a responsibility to share that information with the appropriate officials if a patient presents the threat of danger to themselves or others. There are circumstances when HIPAA does allow for the release of PHI without patient authorization.

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The following are situations in which the Privacy Rule allows disclosures:  when it is necessary for treatment, to protect public health, or if concern exists that the patient may do harm to another. Examples include child abuse or neglect; when the effectiveness of a product or activity regulated by the FDA is in question; when there is a risk of a person contracting or spreading a communicable disease; or if there is a threat to do harm to a person or group of people.

Recent meetings before the US House Oversight and Commerce Committee have proven that it is necessary to address the provisions that allow for disclosures. Providers need to be better informed as to situations when it is permitted, and even ethical, to report information to those who are legally authorized to receive it.

Healthcare professionals live in fear of violating HIPAA. Afraid of disclosing any PHI, they rarely even report information in one of the situations for which the rule makes an exception. It is important for health care providers to educate themselves. Consult with a healthcare attorney that is well versed in HIPAA and privacy laws. They will also know about recent court cases in which precedent has been set, as well as applicable state laws. Also, if a situation presents with a patient that is concerning to the provider, the attorney can provide advice on how to progress. Other helpful resources are professional societies and the Department for Health and Humans Services.

The best way to follow the laws set forth in HIPAA is to understand them. Don’t use HIPAA as shield. Know what the Privacy Rule restrictions are and identify how best to protect your patients while also protecting those around them.

Ouellette, Patrick. (April 30, 2013) Weighing HIPAA privacy standards vs. public safety. Health IT Security. Retrieved on May 7, 2013 from
Rodriguez, Leon. (January 15, 2013) Message to Our Nation’s Health Care Providers. Department of Health and Human Services.  Retrieved on May 7, 2013 from
Public Health. (April 3, 2003.) US Department of Heath and Human Services. Retrieved on May 7, 2013 from
Witnesses Voice HIPAA Concerns During Congressional Hearing. (April 29, 2013.) iHealthBeat. Retrieved on May 7, 2013 from

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Bullying at Work

Bullying in classrooms and playgrounds is a hot topic right now. People all over the country are discussing ways to stop it from happening and how to help the victims. While everyone is quick to discuss childhood bullying, there is another type of bullying affecting people all over the country that no one seems to want to talk about--workplace bullying.

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Called a silent epidemic by many, studies show that as many as 54 million Americans have been bullied at some point while at work. However, 40% of those targeted never tell their boss. Bullying is four times more prevalent than discrimination, but yet there are laws in place to protect employees from discrimination. No laws exist to protect employees from bullying. With no laws to protect them and employers that do not seem to discourage bullying, people prefer not to discuss that they are being bullied.

It is very important that management in every company works to eradicate bullying from its company culture. Not only does it cause problems among employees, it also costs time and money. Bullying leads to high turnover, low productivity, loss of sharing ideas and creative thinking, and can harm the company’s reputation. The following are important facts that employers should know about bullying:

Health Effects
Bullying has been proven to negatively affect the health of those targeted. 45% of people that are bullied suffer from stress-related health problems. These include:

Emotional stress
Digestive issues
High blood pressure
Low self esteem
Trouble in relationships

When employees are experiencing these health problems, they tend to miss more work and when they are at work, productivity is low.

Ways People Bully
There are numerous ways a bully can torture a target at work.  Approximately 70% of workplace bullies are supervisors. The following are things that employers should watch for during interactions between all employees, especially managers and those under their supervision:
  • Verbal abuse, shouting, swearing
  • Unjustified criticism or blame
  • Purposeful exclusion from activities
  • Ignoring work and ideas
  • Humiliation, embarrassment
  • Practical jokes

The best way for an employer to protect employees is awareness of how employees are interacting with each other. Bullying patterns in employee exchanges may indicate that a person is a repeat offender of some of the above list, if not all.

Strategies for Curtailing Bullying
Employers should take several steps to creating a bully-free workplace. The first step is to meet with a business attorney to develop an anti-bullying policy. Next, it is important to provide employee education and awareness. Train managers to watch for the signs and symptoms of bullying, and instruct managers regarding how they can help protect employees. Educate all employees about the company’s stance on workplace bullying. Make sure to impress upon employees that the company sincerely wants to know if they are being bullied and that steps will be taken to mediate the situation. It is vital that employers not create a hostile work environment by unwittingly rewarding bullies. Employers should treat all bullying claims seriously. Investigation and documentation of claims is very important.

About 20% of bullying turns into harassment. Once it reaches that point, the employee being targeted can sue the company. By creating policies that work to prevent bullying, a company can protect itself and its employees.

Conflict Management at Iowa. (December 14, 2010). The University of Iowa. Retrieved April 29, 2013 from
Results of the 2007 WBI U.S. Workplace Bullying Survey. (n.d.) Workplace Bullying Institute.
Workplace Bullying. (n.d.)Bullying Statistics. Retrieved April 29, 2013 from
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