July 20, 2016 – Colleen Niese – Insights

Ask the HR Expert – Managing Clients Who Want to Manage Your Employees

resolution-process-clipart-1The dreaded request every location manager does not want to hear from a client: “move your employee to another location.” Not because of a performance reason, not as a result of an incident, “just cuz”. Ugh. What to do next.

Labor Language

Actually, this can be avoided altogether if the contract is properly drafted with language that explicitly outlines the management rights of the client over the operator’s employees, which would be very few rights at all. If your client management agreements don’t include what a client can and cannot do with your work force, set a time aside with your contract lawyer to draft and insert in all contracts and renewals going forward.

Client Coaching

If the client is insistent, this is where your client relations skills are your best ally. Set a time aside (and bring in senior levels of leadership if needed) with the client to explain the risks involved with transferring an employee that isn’t based on a business or operational need or requirement. It’s one thing if your employee has a performance issue, or can’t perform to the expectations of the job position and has been properly coached before the proposed move, but it’s entirely different thing to transfer an employee based on a client’s personal likes and dislikes. While you may have a hard time conveying that particular message, you can (and have an obligation to do so) point out the potential risks of appearing discriminatory with such decisions and should a claim come to light, the operator and client are both on the hook to defend.

Remember the Union

If your employees are unionized, transferring them based solely on a client’s wish is fairly challenging. If you’re going to entertain moving a unionized employee, you’ll have to review your Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) very carefully to see what obligations your company has agreed to in transfer situations, including seniority, wages and proper notice. Most likely the transferred position has to be equal or better in pay, hours and location convenience to the employee, among other things. This is actually where your CBA is your friend in that the restrictions related to transfers will likely conflict with the client’s ask.

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