Thursday, January 30, 2014

FMLA Leave: What Qualifies?

Most HR professionals, and certainly supervisors and managers, find the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) frustrating for many reasons. Not the least of which is knowing what does or does not qualify as FMLA protected leave. It’s one thing if the situation you’re faced with is one of those unique - doesn’t quite fit the examples – deals, but sometimes even the "usual" can be tricky. Here, I’ll try to give you some basic guidance on what qualifies as FMLA leave.

As we know, the FMLA grants eligible employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave in a 12-month period for the birth, adoption, or foster care placement of a child; the employee’s or a family member’s serious health condition; or a qualifying exigency related to a covered family member’s covered active duty or call to covered active duty.

There are six basic qualifying events that entitle employees to take leave under the FMLA:

  • The birth of a child, and in order to care for that newborn child
  • The placement of a child under the age of 18 with the employee for adoption or foster care, and to care for that child
  • To care for a spouse, daughter, son, or parent of the employee, if that person has a serious health condition
  • An employee’s own serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform the essential functions of his or her job
  • Because of any qualifying exigency arising out of the fact that the employee’s spouse, son, daughter, or parent is a military member on covered active duty, or has been called to covered active duty status (or has been notified of an impending call or order to covered active duty)
  • Up to 26 weeks of leave during a single 12-month period if the employee is the spouse, son, daughter, parent, or next of kin caring for a covered service member or veteran recovering from a serious injury or illness incurred in the line of duty on active duty in the armed forces, or that existed before the beginning of the member’s active duty and was aggravated by, or that manifested itself before or after the member became a veteran

It should be noted that leaves taken for the first two reasons listed (birth and foster/adoptive placement) are leaves intended to give the new parents time to "bond" with their child. The FMLA draws distinctions between leave for "bonding" and leave for serious health conditions, or military family leaves.

BIRTH AND BONDING 
Under the FMLA, eligible employees can take a full 12 weeks of FMLA leave (assuming that they have had no other leave-qualifying events during the 12-month period) for the birth, and to be with a healthy newborn child (so-called "bonding leave"). Bonding leave is available to either men or women, and no medical certification is required. However, bonding leave must be completed within 12 months of the date of birth or placement. When both husband and wife work for the same employer, the full amount of leave is limited to an aggregate of 12 weeks.

Intermittent or reduced schedule leave after the birth to be with a healthy newborn child can only be used if the employer agrees.

ADOPTION AND FOSTER CARE PLACEMENT 
Eligible employees are entitled to up to 12 weeks of FMLA leave for placement with the employee of a son or daughter for adoption or foster care.

Employees may take FMLA leave before the actual placement or adoption of a child if an absence from work is required for the placement for adoption or foster care to proceed. For example, the employee may need leave time to attend required counseling sessions, appear in court, or travel to another country to complete an adoption.

Foster care placement must be made by an agreement of the state as a result of either:

1. An agreement between the parent or guardian that the child be removed from the home; or
2. A judicial determination of the need for foster care.

The foster parent may be the biological relative of the child, but state action must still be involved in the removal of the child from parental custody.

Spouses employed by same employer. Spouses who are each eligible for FMLA leave and are employed by the same covered employer are limited to a combined total of 12 weeks of leave during any 12-month period if the leave is taken for the placement of the employee’s son or daughter or to care for the child after placement. A covered "spouse" includes the spouse of an employee in a same-sex marriage if the employee resides in a state that legally recognizes same-sex marriage.

SERIOUS HEALTH CONDITIONS  Most leave taken under the FMLA is related in some way to serious health conditions—either the employee’s own or that of a family member. The FMLA regulations provide guidelines on what constitutes a serious health condition; but they are only guidelines. In the end, decisions as to whether a condition falls under FMLA’s protection must be made on a case-by-case basis.

The definition of a "serious health condition" includes:

1. An illness, injury, impairment, or physical or mental condition that involves either inpatient care
(i.e., an overnight stay in a hospital, hospice, or residential care facility); or
2. Continuing treatment by a healthcare provider.

The definition of what constitutes a "serious illness or injury" for the purposes of FMLA leave to care for a military service member is different and won’t be discussed here.

Continuing Treatment  The FMLA changed the definition of what qualifies as "continuing treatment" by a healthcare provider. Under the regulations, to qualify as continuing treatment, the condition must involve:

  • A period of incapacity of more than 3 consecutive, full calendar days, and any subsequent treatment or period of incapacity for the same condition that also involves either: 
  • Treatment by a healthcare provider two or more times within 30 days of the first day of incapacity, unless extenuating circumstances exist; or
  • Treatment by a healthcare provider at least once that results in a regimen of continuing treatment under the supervision of the healthcare provider. (The requirement for treatment by a healthcare provider means an in-person visit to that healthcare provider. The first (or only) in-person treatment visit must take place within 7 days of the first day of incapacity.)
  • Any period of incapacity because of pregnancy or prenatal care.
  • Any period of incapacity because of a chronic, serious condition. A chronic, serious health condition is one that requires periodic visits, at least twice a year, for treatment by a healthcare provider or by a nurse under direct supervision of a healthcare provider, which continues over an extended period of time (including recurring episodes of a single underlying condition), and which may cause episodic rather than a continuing period of incapacity (e.g., asthma, diabetes, epilepsy).
  • A period of incapacity that is permanent or long-term because of a condition for which treatment may not be effective (e.g., Alzheimer’s disease).

Circumstances of Leave 
  • Any period of absence to receive multiple treatments by a healthcare provider (e.g., for reconstructive surgery after an accident or injury) or for a condition that would likely result in a period of incapacity of more than 3 consecutive, full days if untreated, such as for cancer (chemotherapy) or kidney disease (dialysis).
  • Absences due to pregnancy, prenatal care, or chronic conditions qualify for FMLA leave even though the employee or the covered family member does not receive treatment from a healthcare provider during the absence, and even if the absence does not last more than 3 consecutive, full calendar days.

For example, an employee with asthma may not be able to report for work due to an asthma attack or because the employee’s healthcare provider has advised the employee to stay home when the pollen count exceeds a certain level. Or, an employee who is pregnant may be unable to report to work because of severe morning sickness.

Incapacity.  The term "incapacity" means inability to work, attend school, or perform other regular daily activities due to the serious health condition, treatment, or recovery.

Treatment.  Covered "treatment" includes (but is not limited to) examinations to determine if a serious health condition exists and evaluations of the condition. Treatment does not include routine physical examinations, eye examinations, or dental examinations. A regimen of continuing treatment includes, for example, a course of prescription medication (e.g., an antibiotic) or therapy requiring special equipment to resolve or alleviate the health condition (e.g., oxygen).

A regimen of continuing treatment that includes the taking of over-the-counter medications such as aspirin, antihistamines, or salves; or bed rest, drinking fluids, exercise, and other similar activities that can be initiated without a visit to a healthcare provider, is not, by itself, sufficient to constitute a regimen of continuing treatment for purposes of FMLA leave.

Definitions
 
Depending on the type of FMLA leave taken, the definition of a covered family member, serious health condition, healthcare provider, and other critical terminology will differ. For example, for the purpose of most FMLA leave for a serious health condition, a covered son or daughter is a person under the age of 18 (or over the age of 18 and incapable of self-care). However, for military family leave, the covered son or daughter may be "of any age" (since a person must be aged 18 or older to serve in the military).

Documentation 
FMLA’s regulations allow an employer to require the employee giving notice of the need for leave to provide reasonable documentation of family relationships or a statement of family relationships. The documentation may take the form of a statement from the employee, a birth certificate, a marriage license, etc.

Spouse
"Spouse" means a husband or wife as defined or recognized under state law for purposes of marriages in the state where the employee resides, including same-sex marriages and common-law marriages in states where such relationships are legally recognized.

In states that recognize domestic partnerships and civil unions, but do not recognize same-sex marriages, the federal FMLA’s definition of a "spouse" will still not apply.

FMLA’s regulations clarify that a husband is entitled to FMLA leave if needed to care for his pregnant spouse who is incapacitated or if needed to care for her during her prenatal care, or if needed to care for the spouse following the birth of a child if the spouse has a serious health condition.

Parent 
"Parent" means a biological, adoptive, step- or foster father or mother, or any other individual who stood in loco parentis to the employee when the employee was a child. This term does not include parents-in-law. Note, however, that some state FMLA laws do expand the definition of parent to include parents-in-law.

Son or daughter 
"Son or daughter" means a biological, adopted, step-, or foster child; a legal ward; or a child of a person standing in loco parentis who is either under the age of 18, or aged 18 or older and "incapable of self-care because of a mental or physical disability" at the time that FMLA leave is to commence.

Adult children 
A parent otherwise eligible for FMLA leave can use that leave to care for a child 18 years of age or older if the following four criteria are met:

1. The adult child has a "disability" under the ADA;
2. He or she is "incapable of self-care" due to that disability; or
3. He or she has a "serious health condition" under the FMLA; and
4. He or she needs care due to the serious health condition.

Whether the adult child’s disability began before or after the age of 18 has no bearing on eligibility.

An adult child is "incapable of self-care" if the child requires "active assistance or supervision to provide daily self-care" in three or more of the ‘activities of daily living’ (ADLs) or ‘instrumental activities of daily living’ (IADLs). ADLs include caring for one’s grooming and hygiene, bathing, dressing, and eating. IADLs include "cooking, cleaning, shopping, taking public transportation, paying bills, maintaining a residence, using telephones and directories, [and] using a post office."

The adult child’s medical condition must be both a disability under the ADA and a serious health condition under the FMLA. A chronic medical condition will likely meet both definitions. However, since "minor and transitory" impairments are not disabilities under the ADA, FMLA leave would not be avail- able to the parent of an adult child with such impairment.

The requirement that the parent is "needed to care" for the adult children encompasses both physical and psychological care. The term "needed to care" also includes providing psychological comfort and reassurance that would be beneficial to a son or daughter with a serious health condition who is receiving inpatient or home care.

The DOL Wage and Hour Division’s Administrator’s Interpretation No. 2013-1 (January 14, 2013) provides some examples of whether an employee would be needed to care for an adult child under the FMLA:

Example 
An employee’s 37-year-old daughter suffers a shattered pelvis in a car accident that substantially limits her in a number of major life activities (i.e., walking, standing, sitting, etc.). As a result of this injury, the daughter is hospitalized for 2 weeks and under the ongoing care of a healthcare provider. Although she is expected to recover, she will be substantially limited in walking for 6 months. If she needs assistance in three or more activities of daily living, such as bathing, dressing, and maintaining a residence, she will qualify as an adult "daughter" under the FMLA as she is incapable of self-care because of a disability. The daughter’s shattered pelvis would also be a serious health condition under the FMLA, and her parent would be entitled to take FMLA-protected leave to provide care for her immediately and throughout the time that she continues to be incapable of self-care because of the disability.

Example 
An employee’s 25-year-old son has diabetes, but lives independently and does not need assistance with any ADLs or IADLs. Although the young man’s diabetes qualifies as a disability under the ADA because it substantially limits a major life activity (i.e., endocrine function), he will not be considered an adult "son" for purposes of the FMLA because he is capable of providing daily self-care without assistance or supervision. Therefore, if the son is admitted to a hospital overnight for observation due to a skiing accident that does not render him disabled, his parent will not be entitled to take FMLA leave to care for him because he is over the age of 18 and not incapable of self-care due to a mental or physical disability.
If the son later becomes unable to walk and is also unable to care for his own hygiene, dress himself, and bathe due to complications of his diabetes, he will be considered an adult "son" as he is incapable of self-care due to a disability. The son’s diabetes will be both a disability under the ADA and a chronic serious health condition under the FMLA because his condition requires continuing treatment by a doctor (e.g., regular kidney dialysis appointments). If his parent is needed to care for him, his parent may, therefore, take FMLA-protected leave to do so.

(U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division’s Administrator’s Interpretation No.
2013-1 (January 14, 2013))


Pregnancy 
A mother is entitled to FMLA leave for incapacity due to pregnancy, for prenatal care, or for her own serious health condition following the birth of the child. Circumstances may require that FMLA leave begin before the actual date of birth of a child. An expectant mother may take FMLA leave before the birth of the child for prenatal care or if her condition makes her unable to work. Some state laws also provide special leave for pregnant employees who are disabled by their pregnancy. Check your state maternity and pregnancy leave.

Under the FMLA, a mother is entitled to leave for incapacity due to pregnancy even though she does not receive treatment from a healthcare provider during the absence, and even if the absence does not last for more than 3 consecutive calendar days. A husband is also entitled to FMLA leave if needed to care for his pregnant spouse who is incapacitated, if needed to care for her during her prenatal care, or if needed to care for the spouse following the birth of a child if the spouse has a serious health condition.

The FMLA is really a very involved law with a lot of moving parts. There are any number of guides available to help you navigate through the confusion and administer your FMLA leave legally and consistently. In fact, there are whole seminars, conferences and courses devoted just to FMLA! This post covered just one aspect. I encourage anyone responsible for administering leave to avail themselves of any of these comprehensive guides.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Presenteeism?

Coming to work sick and what it costs your business



So, I’ve had the flu this week. (And yes, I had gotten a flu shot in October - *sigh*) I went through the stages of not being able to stand being vertical for more than a few minutes at a time, through being bored silly, but not feeling well enough to do anything productive. No one likes being sick; we don’t have time for it! Between having too much to do at work, to too much to do at home, we just don’t want to take the time to be sick. Too bad we don’t really have a choice once we actually get sick.

But, after reaching the boredom stage, I started to think about my post for this week. I thought the issue of "presenteeism" seemed fitting. Who of us hasn’t gone to work with a cold, or even the flu?

What is "presenteeism"? That’s where employees come to work anyway when they’re sick or otherwise unable to be fully productive. What does that cost us?

As it turns out, it costs plenty; possibly more than absenteeism.

There are a number of studies, here, and here for example, that indicate that presenteeism can cost between $150 and $250 billion per year to US businesses. Ouch. Indications are that it can cost 60% or more of total employee illness costs (and that includes things like the cost of health insurance, etc.) And for the most part, few businesses even attempt to track the cost of this phenomenon.

How are these costs incurred? The most obvious one is that if employees come to work sick, they will invariably spread that illness to other employees, thus increasing absences and causing more presenteeism. An ill employee is not working up to capacity, and that may cause lower quality work product, necessary do-overs, inadequate customer service, and even higher workplace injury rates. In addition, coming to work before fully recovered may actually result in more absenteeism. You can’t really recover if you don’t rest and take care of your cold or flu, right?

Why do people come to work sick and can we really do anything about it? The reasons are many.

Some employees just don’t want to miss work and have it pile up. Cross-training can be helpful here so no one feels like the world stops turning if they can’t come into work. Can you offer any of your employees the option of working from home if they don’t feel well enough to come into the office? Can you provide the resources for them to do so (computer, network access, etc.)?

Others simply don’t want to use a paid day off. Surprisingly, PTO banks can actually contribute to this mindset. Employees may treat all paid time off as vacation and therefore will not use it for sick leave, coming into work ill instead. Having sick time separate from other PTO leave may resolve this for some employees.

Lack of paid sick days is certainly an issue for some. Often it’s lower paid, or less than full-time employees who do not have access to paid sick leave. They don’t feel they can afford to take a sick day. This can be a tough nut to crack if your business simply cannot afford to offer all employees paid sick leave. However, if you can, you should. If not, education may help. The understanding that if you don’t allow yourself time to recover, you’ll end up missing more time, and therefore, missing more pay, is something not all employees think about.
Your workplace culture could be encouraging presenteeism. If employees feel their jobs are at risk by taking time off for illness, you’re encouraging something you’d ideally like to prevent. Make sure employees understand their health is important to you and to the overall health of the company. Workplace wellness programs may help here. While there are recent studies that indicate such programs are not achieving the intended results (reducing insurance claim costs); the effort you put into showing your employees you care about their well-being can be a step in the process to having them understand that coming to work while ill does not serve them or you.

Lead by example. If as a supervisor, manager or other upper level executive, you show up sick, you’re encouraging others to do the same. When an employee comes to work with a clearly contagious illness, it’s really best to send her home to get better, and make sure she understands her job is not in jeopardy for missing a day or two here or there due to illness.

Our company was closed on Monday and we had a snow day on Tuesday, so I had an additional couple of days without losing work time to recover (mostly) from the flu. Have I gone to work with a cold? Yep. I’ll think about it a bit more before I do so again. Here’s hoping that you can convince your employees to do the same.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

How to Stop Your Employees from Leaving

According to a new Careerbuilder survey, 21% of full-time employees intend to look for a new job this year. What’s your turnover lately? The survey shows overall job satisfaction seems to be down (59% vs. 66% in 2013). More than 3000 full-time, private sector employees were polled in November and December 2013. They cited the following as reasons for looking for a different job:

58% are dissatisfied with their job.
45% are dissatisfied with their advancement opportunities.
39% aren’t happy with their work/life balance.
39% feel they are underemployed.
39% are feeling highly stressed.
37% have a poor opinion of their boss’s performance.
36% feel they were overlooked for a promotion.
35% of those looking have been with their current employer for 2 years or less.
28% didn’t receive a pay increase in 2013.

Who’s staying in their jobs?

79% of those surveyed say they intend to stay with their current employer. They gave a number of reasons, including:

- Liking the people they work with – 54%
- Good work/life balance – 50%
- Good benefits – 49%
- Good salary – 43%
- Uncertainty in job market – 35%
- Short commute – 35%
- Good boss – 32%
- Feeling valued and recognized – 29%

So, what does this tell us about how to keep our best employees? Certainly, some of these are outside our control as supervisors and managers. Normally, there’s not much we can do about someone’s commute. Work/life balance is as much a personal issue to resolve as it is a work issue to address. And, we really can’t make everyone like each other. But what can we do?

Talk to your people. If you don’t know what your employees want in terms of their growth and development, you can’t help provide them with opportunities to meet their needs, and you risk losing them.

Create growth opportunities. When hiring, look internally first.  Make it a priority to consider your current employees first to see if there is anyone who could stretch into the new position.  Make sure employees are aware of internal openings and have an opportunity to apply for them if they’re interested.

Utilize performance reviews to gain insights into your employees’ goals and career aspirations. Performance reviews can be opportunities to discuss employees’ career goals, and obtain input for creating stretch opportunities for them — both within their current roles and in new roles.

Communicate clear performance expectations and make employees accountable for meeting them. Review performance on a regular basis.  Acknowledge good work and discuss work that missed the mark and determine how to avoid a repeat performance in the future.

Listen well. In any discussion with your employees, listen for the main message. Stop thinking about your reply or whether the speaker is actually talking about you. Let your body language make the statement that you’re really listening.

Give responsibility. Show your employees you trust them by giving them responsibilities that allow them to grow. Encourage them to gain new skills.

Reward and recognize. While "employee of the month" and service awards can be helpful, they can become stale, boring and a chore, and therefore lose any real impact. Get to know your employees! Find out how they want to be rewarded and recognized. This is one area where getting "personal" may pay off. Receiving an award that is more individualized will be more meaningful to most employees than the standard gift card for the mall.

Simple words and sentiments go a long way. Say please, thank you, and you're doing a good job. It’s so simple, yet so effective. And saying "you’re doing a good job" in front of others can be an extra boost.

We all need positive and negative consequences. The motivation and morale of your best employees is at stake. Nothing hurts motivation and morale more quickly than enduring the co-worker who slacks off or behaves badly and gets away with it.

When the economy sucks, people tend to stay in their current jobs due to the uncertainly of what’s out there. When the economy begins to improve, people start to feel more comfortable in looking to move to another job. While I doubt many of us would agree the economy is all that great right now, there’s enough improvement that you may start seeing movement of the employees who feel like some of those surveyed. If you don’t already do some of these things, now’s a great time to start.
 
 

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Should We Ban the Box?



Recently, retailer Target joined 10 states and 50 cities that have adopted policies that prohibit job applications from asking about criminal convictions or arrests. Target said it will remove questions about prior arrests on its job applications. At this time, many of these city and state laws pertain to public employers or government contractors; however Minnesota (where Target is based), has expanded its law to private employers.

Employers covered under many ban-the-box laws cannot ask applicants about criminal convictions until an interview or even after they’ve made a conditional offer of employment. The belief is that ex-offenders will have a better chance at getting a job if they’re not eliminated in the application phase.
 
In a recent NPR interview, Madeline Neighly, a staff attorney for the National Employment Law Project, or NELP, spoke for many proponents of this practice, explaining that "This is an opportunity for folks to put their qualifications forward and to be judged on those first. This is merely to give all folks the opportunity to describe themselves and their qualifications and be judged on those first. And then later in the process, if the employer does the criminal background check at that time, they're much more likely to comply with the guidance set out by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that explains how employers need to take this information into account. Looking at, is it job related? You know, what's the conviction? How is that related to the job in question, instead of just disqualifying folks first off."

This reasoning assumes, and I believe wrongly, that many employers have a blanket policy of not hiring those with any criminal conviction, and wouldn’t take into consideration the type of offense, when it occurred, and its relevance to the specific job. Just as "one size fits all" does not work with such a blanket policy, nor does one size fits all work in applying such laws. It also assumes, that for some reason, having interviewed someone before finding out he/she has a criminal background, the hiring authority will be more likely to comply with the EEOC’s guidelines. I see no basis in reality for that assumption. In fact, I see very little evidence in reality that most employers don’t already employ a decision making process that takes these factors into consideration.

In some industries businesses simply cannot consider individuals with certain criminal convictions. Employers providing services such as childcare, health care, or transportation for example are required by law to perform a criminal background check and are prohibited from hiring people with certain convictions. Certain jobs require licenses, bonding or insurance that may be hindered by a criminal record. It is a safety measure. Do we want a child molester working at the community rec center? How about the embezzler handling your customers’ money or having access to enough information to commit identity theft? Asking about an applicant’s criminal background history is a valid question that has direct bearing on whether or not an otherwise qualified person can or should be hired. Unfortunately, as I’ve covered in an earlier post, the EEOC is nearly disregarding that fact in its guidance, leaving businesses in a no-win situation.

What I believe this whole argument is lacking is an element of honesty and disclosure, on both sides. Is it better for an applicant to know up front that his criminal history will bar him from certain jobs, or should he expend the time and energy in the application process only to find out later that he cannot be hired, or find out even after he’s actually been hired? Should businesses be forced to expend that same time, energy and cost upfront before finding out they cannot hire that candidate?

Smart employers consider the whole applicant. That includes skills, knowledge, and level of experience. Character, attitude and demeanor are often included in this mix. I may have an applicant with all the right experience, but a lousy attitude or who just may be a bad fit. I’m not going to let his experience overshadow those deficiencies.

Criminal history is a relevant factor in judging a candidate’s character, reliability and trustworthiness. Ban the box laws have the potential to endanger both employers and the public. We have a responsibility to protect our customers, other employees and our business. There is little doubt that when someone commits a crime in the course of or related to employment, the employer is often held responsible. "What? You knew this person had a record? You allowed him to have access to [insert victim or stolen property here]?" Yes, this happens. If we’re forced to ban the box, will the liability be removed as well? I doubt it.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Smartphones in Meetings?

Hang it up…..



Smartphones, tablets and notebooks are ubiquitous equipment in the business world today, and in our personal worlds, as well. And along with those devices come issues and attitudes about their use, the where and when of their use. I’m sure many people have experienced that "how rude!" thought at one time or the other when confronted with a loud cell phone conversation or the intrusive "alert" tones for email, text or incoming calls.

But now, there’s more documented evidence of our attitudes about their use, at least in one venue: a study conducted by Peter W. Cardon of the USC Marshall School of Business and colleagues at Howard University reveals these attitudes and differences among men and woman, different age groups, and even different regions of the country.

Sampling more than 550 full-time working professionals, the study shows us what business professionals view as acceptable, courteous or rude use of mobile phones and other devices in the workplace. The researchers identified the most common complaints people had about smartphone use among their co-workers. These included browsing the Internet and checking/reading text and email messages. The respondents, all working professionals making at least $30,000 a year, were asked to identify which of these behaviors they considered acceptable – and which were just flat-out rude.

"Not surprisingly, millennials and younger professionals were more likely to be accepting of smartphone use, but they might be doing themselves a disservice," Cardon said. "In many situations, they rely on those older than them for their career advancement."

The study found that 76 percent of people said that looking at texts or emails was unacceptable behavior in business meetings and 87 percent of people thought answering a call during a business meeting was rarely or never acceptable.

Interestingly enough, broken down by gender, the study found that more than 59 percent of men said it was okay to check text messages at a power lunch, but only 34 percent of women said so. Along those same lines, 50 percent of men said answering a call at a power lunch was okay, compared to 26 percent of women.

Higher-income professionals had less tolerance for smartphone use in business meetings, but younger professionals were nearly three times as likely as older professionals to think sending out a message over a business lunch is appropriate – 66 percent of people under 30 said texting or emailing was okay, compared to just 20 percent of those aged 51-65.

Despite the perception that West Coasters are more laid back, these professionals were less accepting of mobile phone use in meetings than people from the East Coast.

A full 20 percent of professionals said simply having your phone out at a business lunch is rude.

Even attempting to be polite and saying "excuse me" to take a call didn’t help; over 30 percent still found it to be rarely or never appropriate during informal/offsite lunch meetings.

I believe that for many people, there are some basic tenets at play here, or possibly more accurately, not at play here.

You’re not paying attention to the matter at hand, which in this case is the business meeting, whether formal or informal. You can’t possibly have your full attention on what’s being discussed if you’re busy texting your friends, tweeting your boredom or updating your Facebook status. Your colleagues in the meeting will assume you don’t feel they, or the topic of the meeting are as important as whatever is happening on the other end of your phone. This then leads to the perception that you’re not showing the proper respect, for your colleagues, or the meeting.

I think we can all agree that smartphones and other devices can help us be more productive and they certainly can make our lives easier, but it’s time to remember there is a time and place for everything – and maybe business meetings are not the time or place for indiscriminate use of our smartphones.