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November 19th, 2019 | Val Poltorak, General Manager, Healthcare and Life Sciences, Sterling

Insights from Sterling’s 4th Annual Healthcare and Life Sciences Summit

Annual Healthcare and Life Sciences Summit

The challenges of marijuana legalization, staying up-to-date with regulatory changes, hiring and retaining top talent in a tight job market, and forecasting what’s down the road for healthcare and life sciences HR professionals in 2020 were all important topics of discussion at Sterling’s 4th Annual Healthcare & Life Sciences Summit, which took place in New York City October 23 and 24.

More than 35 industry professionals from hospitals, healthcare systems, pharmaceutical companies, and more gathered at this yearly meeting to discuss current and emerging challenges, discuss best practices, learn from industry thought leaders, and network with peers.

Sterling’s President Lou Paglia greeted the audience on day one of the two-day gathering and discussed the importance of providing a foundation of trust and safety, illustrating how Sterling’s mission helps companies provide a safer working environment.

Sterling’s “the client is always in the room” philosophy helps guide our mission while also providing direct feedback. “One of Sterling’s key differentiators is our desire to collaborate with our healthcare and life sciences clients in order to understand their unique day-to-day challenges and pain points,” Lou stated. “This helps us continuously evolve and innovate. We strive to add more and more value for our clients with each new iteration. We deliver results for you by partnering with you,” he added.

Trending drug use and best practices for screening

Underscoring the challenges facing industry recruiters and talent acquisition professionals, the meeting’s first speaker, DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) Group Supervisor Luke Settles, discussed trending drug use and best practices for screening. From prescription fraud to the continued abuse of opioids and new issues created with the introduction of Narcan, the alarming rise of Fentanyl, and new, more potent drugs like Carfentanil, Settles provided stark reminders about how important it is for companies to work with their local DEA office.

The session that followed, entitled “Drug and Health Screening: Challenges and Opportunities of In-House vs Offsite Screening,” addressed some of the methods used to screen candidates and existing staff for drug use. Sterling’s Director of Healthcare, Ryan Garman, led this panel discussion that included Pierre Stegelitz, Talent Services Manager at BJC Healthcare; Christina Baker, Employment Screening Manager from Life Care Centers of America; and Nikki Holton, Global HR Investigations and Screening COE Consultant from Eli Lilly. Panelists and attendees alike spoke about the benefits and shortcomings of in-house versus offsite screening, concluding that each organization must find a solution or set of solutions that best serves its populations.

Looking at 2019 as an indicator of what lies ahead

Courtney Stieber, Partner at legal firm Seyfarth Shaw, then reviewed significant legislation and regulations from 2019 that will serve as indicators for what to expect in the months and year ahead. Courtney examined the Department of Labor’s changes to salary rules and gender/sexual identity issues working their ways through the federal and state courts, as well as stands taken by EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, DOJ (Department of Justice), and HHS (United States Department of Health and Human Services).

Sexual harassment laws took center stage in 2019, Courtney explained, noting written policy/notice requirements taking effect in 10 states including New York, Illinois, and California, while several states also introduced training requirements. Additionally, she explained, nine states have pending or passed bills prohibiting non-disclosure agreements regarding reporting or settling sexual harassment claims.

As Healthcare and Life Sciences talent acquisition professionals found themselves dealing with salary history bans as 14 states, nine cities or counties, and one territory passed legislation in 2019, Courtney discussed exactly what is prohibited and provided views on best practices moving forward.

A major issue that dominated the courts and the news in 2019, Courtney explained, was criminal history bans, frequently referred to as “Ban the Box” legislation. As several states and local jurisdictions have passed regulations or guidelines for private and/or public organizations, Courtney discussed the sometimes vague and confusing language of the laws and the questions companies should ask with regard to individualized assessment factors and before considering taking adverse action.

Questions and comments from summit attendees illustrated the real-world challenges that HR professionals face when confronting this shifting regulatory landscape. Not only were they concerned with what’s down the road, but also how to keep up with recently enacted legislation as well as updated regulations.

The answer, Courtney explained, was to leverage tools such as government websites to stay up to date, rely on industry associations, partner with trusted background screening companies who provides this information in a timely fashion, and to seek legal counsel when in doubt.

The challenges of pay equity

The final speaker for the first day’s sessions was Sarah Wieselthier, Associate of labor and employment law firm Fisher Phillips. Sarah discussed how healthcare and life sciences companies can craft pay equity strategies that can make both employees and employers happy. She reviewed the federal law as well as protected categories on a federal and state level. “A major challenge in pay equity is determining what is ‘equal’ or ‘substantially similar’ work in regard to skill, responsibility, and effort,” Sarah stated, also noting what are lawful justifications for pay disparities.

Sarah then examined steps that healthcare and life sciences companies can take in order to promote a sound and compliant pay equity strategy. These steps include reviewing existing pay equity documents, conducting in-depth training, and updating policies and applications to correct systemic problems. Sarah also addressed the merits and challenges of conducting pay audits, and discussed recent and current litigation surrounding the issue, noting examples of damages and statutes of limitations. The group’s takeaway was that it is prudent to always seek legal counsel when confronted with issues that are unclear and could lead to significant penalties or reputational damage for an organization.

Recruitment and retention best practices take center stage

Day Two of the Healthcare Summit promised a full agenda, including a keynote speech from well-known author John Gregory Vincent, discussions about recruitment and retention best practices, a deep dive into workforce monitoring, and a session exploring how HR can mitigate workplace violence.

To learn more about how Sterling’s Healthcare & Life Sciences industry practice can help you solve your talent acquisition challenges, visit sterlingcheck.com/healthcare.

This publication is for informational purposes only and nothing contained in it should be construed as legal advice. We expressly disclaim any warranty or responsibility for damages arising out this information. We encourage you to consult with legal counsel regarding your specific needs. We do not undertake any duty to update previously posted materials.