A look at: Employee Relations

employee relations

Employee Relations team members are (l-r): Alex Reynolds, senior employee relations specialist; Brittany Muzyka, assistant; Lina Perrotti, director; Jovita Thomas-Williams, vice president, Human Resources; Jennifer Medoff, employee relations specialist; Julie Wurcel, senior employee relations specialist; and Donald Griffith, employee relations specialist.

They’re involved in decisions that affect people’s lives. They bring a blend of knowledge and compassion to their work. Every day is different, and often brings something unexpected.

This probably sounds familiar to those providing patient care, but it also describes Yale New Haven Hospital’s Employee Relations team. From day to day, they deal with everything from job performance to HR policies to administering a collective bargaining agreement.

“We guide employees and management through complex work-life situations,” said Lina Perrotti, director, Employee and Labor Relations. “Often we are the resource people rely on when they don’t know where to go for answers.” 

The department is led by Jovita Thomas-Williams, YNHH vice president, Human Resources. She relies on a wealth of HR experience in supporting the Employee Relations team by balancing her commitment to employee advocacy with sound management practices. Assistant Brittany Muzyka is the first person people speak to when they contact Employee Relations. Depending on the caller’s department or service line, she guides them to the appropriate specialist. Other team members include employee relations specialists Donald Griffith and Jennifer Medoff and senior employee relations specialists Alex Reynolds and Julie Wurcel.

Cases involving time and attendance policies and injuries or disabilities are among the most common. Medoff recently helped an employee who could not continue working due to a worsening disability. She partnered with several other departments to coordinate his benefits so the employee could leave the organization feeling more secure about his finances, knowing YNHH helped him plan for his future.

“It’s rewarding when you find a solution that’s best for the employee and the organization,” said Medoff, who became a specialist two years ago after serving as assistant.

Employee Relations staff help interpret health system policies and the multitude of federal and state regulations governing employment practices to determine how they apply to individuals’ situations. Griffith, Wurcel and Reynolds have law degrees, which are particularly helpful in keeping the department up to date on rule changes that impact the workplace.

“This is a hybrid role for me,” said Reynolds, who was an attorney with the International Longshoremen’s Association before joining YNHH in 2014. “I’m still using my legal knowledge and experience, but it’s balanced with a human element.”

That human element is what makes people want to work in Employee Relations, where compassion is as critical as expertise, Perrotti said. This is particularly true when employees share the organization’s values, but do not have the skills to meet performance expectations.

“For employees or managers with performance concerns, we explore education, job counseling and other resources, or encourage them to find a different position within the health system,” Perrotti said. “Our hope is to preserve employment, provide the support people need and help them make choices in their careers.”

Employee Relations also oversees the annual Quarter Century Club celebrations for employees with 25 years or more of service, and administers the Employee Hardship Fund for those experiencing acute financial loss due to sudden, critical or unanticipated circumstances. The fund has supported employees who have had house fires or a sudden need to move because of domestic violence.

Employee Relations also helps YNHH remain an employer of choice, by using tools such as the Employee Engagement Survey.

“We can help managers interpret the data and create staff engagement opportunities as a roadmap for improvements,” Perrotti said.

The ultimate goal of these and other Employee Relations efforts is promoting excellent patient care, Reynolds said.

“We do whatever we can to support employees and leadership, which ultimately supports our patients,” he said. “The people in this organization are extraordinarily smart, driven and caring. It’s an honor to work with them every day.”