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The Employee/Employer Connection

In the June 2014 issue of Massage Today, I wrote an article called “The Spa Controversy.” That article sparked a lot of comments and inspired me to do further research.

I am compiling additional data and interviewing a variety of spa directors to share with you the range of benefits they offer and the conditions therapists must meet to get those benefits. In the meantime, I am following that article with ideas on how employees and employers can best work together.

Working for others and working for yourself aren't mutually exclusive concepts. When we deliver quality and ethical work as employees, the most obvious result is that we keep our jobs which certainly is to our personal advantage. At the same time, our quality work contributes to the success of the company, and a successful company gives us more opportunity to perform quality work. This cycle of success is the root of employment and economic health.

To achieve this success, employers and employees share responsibility for the ethical conduct of the business. The responsibilities of each directly impact the other.

Ethical Considerations for Employers

The reality of the power differential means that, ethically, a business should take a protective role toward its employees. Laws and regulations provide this ethical framework, which is ideally completed through policies and procedures that demonstrate the business' respect for its employees and defense of their individual rights. Important areas where these attitudes must and should be expressed are in practices of fairness and diversity, safety, security and integrity.

Fairness and Diversity

Employment opportunities are to be made without regard to race, color, religion, national origin, citizenship, age, sex, gender, sexual orientation, sexual preference, veteran status, marital status, disability or other characteristics protected under laws and regulations. Reasonable accommodations must be provided for qualified disabled employees. In compliance with applicable laws and regulations, a business aims for a diverse workforce. Opportunities for advancement within the company should be clearly advertised and fairly distributed.

Unfortunately, many establishments inadvertently foster discrimination when they ask clients if they prefer a male or female practitioner. While it's fine to honor a client's request for a particular gender, it's unnecessary to ask if they have a preference. The simple act of asking communicates that there could be an issue and I don't believe we should promulgating that concept.

Other companies blatantly violate laws by limiting their employment opportunities to a specific gender. The only instance where this is ethical is when a specific workplace is limited to one gender (e.g., a women's spa where all the members and all of the employees who come into contact with members are female).

Safety

The employer has the responsibility to provide a safe environment for the conduct of the business. The environment includes a building that is structurally safe and meets fire codes and safety mechanisms such as protective latex-free gloves, hand sanitizer, hydraulic tables and anti-fatigue floor mats that help prevent workplace injuries. In addition, safety measures include policies regarding workplace violence that may address issues such as harassment, threats, aggressive behaviors, substance abuse and reporting suspected impairment.

Security

In addition to providing an environment that promotes physical safety, the employer must provide means for securing the privacy and confidentiality of employees. Personnel records, private health information and personal identifying information shouldn't be shared outside the business except as required by law or as authorized by the employee. Within the business, private information regarding employees is shared only on a need-to-know basis. The business has an ethical responsibility to provide devices that help ensure the security of stored information, such as secure computer terminals, password-protected folders and locked file cabinets or rooms.

Integrity

A business that functions with integrity complies not only with relevant laws and professional regulations, but with its own stated purpose, goals and mission. Advertising, marketing, pricing and promotions should be transparent, honest and fair. Situations that require ethical decision-making should be reviewed by a committee whose membership includes appropriate representatives of owners, managers and employees. Ideally, the business provides and encourages employees to use a confidential means for reporting known or potential violations of fairness, safety and security. Always ensure that those who report such violations don't suffer negative consequences to their employment.

Ethical Considerations for Employees

The characteristics of an employee/employer relationship are like those of any long-term, serious relationship. By agreeing to accept employment, an individual enters a world where commitment, loyalty, cooperation and obligation play important roles. Hopefully the business earns these from its employees through its own ethical behavior; nevertheless, these qualities on the part of the employee aren't optional. The employees' commitment, loyalty, cooperation and obligation remains with their clients and the services they provide. Finally, certain legal and ethical actions specifically come into play when the employee knows or believes that a business is failing to act ethically.

Commitment

An employee demonstrates commitment through his or her action. Quality work and performance start by being on the job as scheduled, in a timely manner and by performing work skillfully for all clients and in all circumstances. Commitment proves itself over the long term; it shows up through diligence, determination, honesty and objectivity. From a place of commitment, an employee chooses appropriate behavior at and away from work. The committed employee doesn't use business assets for personal reasons and deals fairly with ownership and staff, as well as with clients, vendors or others in the business relationship.

Loyalty

A loyal employee avoids associations that interfere with the ability to represent the company. Conflicts of interest are resolved by the employee if they arise and the employee recognizes that the organization has the right to own ideas and opportunities created by the employee as part of the employment. The loyal employee communicates candidly and honestly with the employer through appropriate channels, but recognizes that those channels aren't invitations to second-guess or criticize the employer's decisions.

Cooperation

The success of a business' ethical code depends upon employee cooperation. Employees must cooperate with laws and regulations for a business to remain compliant, and in some cases employees as well as the business, can be held legally responsible for infractions that occur. Employee cooperation ensures that the business deals ethically with clients and the public. When employees cooperate with the vision and growth targets established by the company, the work of the business becomes more efficient and effective. Employee cooperation feeds the cycle of success for both employee and business.

Obligation

Employees are obligated to keep accurate records and submit truthful billing accounts. Employees must responsibly manage client information, as well as business proprietary information, and must maintain confidentiality of this information even after leaving employment. An employee who knows or believes that legal, regulatory or other ethical infractions are occurring in a place of business is obligated to take action. If reporting infractions in good faith through internal pathways doesn't lead to resolution, the employee is obligated to take those concerns to an appropriate agency outside the organization.

A successful employer/employee work environment requires creating a clear and ethical plan that addresses the above areas, having a common vision for the establishment and sharing compatible healthcare philosophies. The employer and the employee share in the responsibility of making this relationship healthy, harmonious and profitable for all parties. Please refer to "The Spa Controversy" article for specific ethical guidelines for spa employees and spa management.

If you are a therapist who is thinking about becoming an employee in a clinic, spa or hospital, make a list of what you consider the advantages and disadvantages of working for someone else. Next, clearly outline your perfect work environment. Finally, research the potential employers to see if they match your requirements.

If you are an employer, review this list to evaluate how well you support your employees, particularly in the areas of fairness and diversity, safety, security and integrity. I encourage you to make any changes necessary to fully support your employees.

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Last updated: November 10, 2014
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