Letter of the Law: 4 ways to provide transparency in the veterinary workplace
I have been a lawyer and a consultant for small businesses for decades, and at no time during that period could anyone accuse me of being a champion of labor unions. I'm no lover of big government either, but that doesn't mean that I don't see an important role in our society for both government and labor organization—each has positive attributes that the private sector and small business can learn from.
One admirable characteristic of both effective government and honest collective bargaining is that they tend to elicit transparency. If it weren't for the government, employers would not be required to inform their employees of their rights under the workers' compensation and disability laws. And organized labor has helped force large-scale employers to provide critical information about workplace health risks to their workers. The best disinfectant is sunshine, and there are many examples where openness has proved to be beneficial to both public and private employees.
In a recent veterinary associate contract negotiation my office was involved in, the employer offered no details about the health insurance coverage called for by the contract. The agreement merely said that there would be coverage. The associate didn't think much about the fact that the practice owner didn't provide insurance information. I asked, "Is the carrier Blue Cross of Bob's Health Insurance and HMO Company?" The associate didn't know. "Is your domestic partner covered?" Well, he hadn't thought about that. "If you don't pass the physical and can't get coverage—trust me it happens—do you get added compensation to seek your own coverage in lieu of the employer's policy?" The associate didn't know that could be an issue. My position is that because health insurance can value up to 20 percent of an actual salary, the employer should provide coverage details so an associate candidate can make an educated decision about whether to take the job.