Friday, 18 Jan 2019

When is it best to avoid your eyes at work?

Reader: I am a technician in an ophthalmologist's office. Today, I had a patient wearing an indented shirt exposing her bra and her cleavage. Her arms were crossed under her breasts, pushing them upwards. It was so embarrassing that I respectfully said, "Please, do not worry, but would it bother you to lift your top because it is revealing?" She laughed and apologized. Later, during the break, I talked about this incident with several colleagues. My manager heard me say that I could be fired for saying what I told the patient. Can I really get fired for telling the patient to repair her shirt?

Karla: Your manager can certainly fire you because he does not like the way you talk to or about a patient, as long as he or she does not violate any federal or state discrimination law, or any contract of work that you may have.

For what it's worth, however, what you said does not attack me. You could have made things less delicate by focusing on her comfort, rather than your discomfort: "Oh, you might want to adjust your shirt – your bra is visible" or (indicating her arms crossed) " Are you hot enough? Can I cover you? Otherwise, if you can not simply ignore the patient's attire – or facial piercing, wrinkled eyebrows, or other distracting features – you might discreetly ask a less easily agitated colleague to intervene.

That said: If you suspect that a patient is trying to deliberately target you with suggestive words or actions, you should report it to your supervisor. Employers have a duty to provide employees with a safe work environment free of harassment, which may include action against customers or customers who harass or threaten them.

Incidentally, for those who are inclined to assert that I should leave a little slack in the chest because even a woman who underwent an ophthalmic examination could not stay focused on the eyes of a patient too big: the advice " ignore or mark "works for them, too.

Reader 2: On my last day of a two week vacation abroad, a colleague sent me a message to warn me that the open subscription period of our business to the sickness coverage had started after my departure and ended a few hours after my departure for the mainland. I had no way to register where I was. Frantic, I sent an email to HR, whose response was brief and definitive: they would not extend the time for me.

Fortunately, my husband was in the United States. After working in a cemetery, he spent 2.5 hours reviewing benefits changes and was able to complete our registration by the deadline.

My company only gave us eight business days to register. Has this violated laws or regulations?

Karla: According to Gary Kushner, president of the human resources consulting and benefits management company Kushner & Co., employers are not legally required to set a specific minimum or maximum period for open enrollment. To be fair, he notes that the choice of benefits before the start of a year plan takes intense efforts, and late registrations add to this burden. But, he adds, most HR professionals in his experience would likely have extended an extension to someone in your case.

Recall: If you are not covered by health insurance provided by your employer, you can enroll in the program for 2019 until December 15th.


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