One way to a successful dental practice is managing employment risks. Practice owners must make sure they are in strict compliance with all state and federal laws.
Below are some ways for dental practices to avoid significant liability:
- Using corporations to provide limited liability for acts of employees
- Employing a competent manager, and providing them with the necessary employment law information
- Periodically submitting office procedures for review by certified public accountants
- Encouraging periodic updating of employee manuals and good interaction between your office manager and employment law specialists
- Encouraging your office manager to resolve problems before they occur
Because of the plethora of rules and regulations governing employment law, it is important for dental practice owners to keep a current employee manual and to submit the manual and all personnel forms to an attorney for periodic review. Below are some of the areas and issues that should be addressed.
Hiring. Dentists and their office managers should be aware of the numerous employment law issues related to hiring.
Employee Performance Evaluations. Dentists and their office managers should implement a fair and honest employee evaluation system to motivate exceptional employees and document employee performance problems and employee misconduct.
Discipline and Discharge. Discharge and discipline decisions should be based solely on sound and fair reasons. Dentists and their office managers should maintain complete documentation, consistently follow established policies and procedures, and support termination decisions with adequate grounds.
Wages, Hours, and Compensation. Federal and some state laws establish minimum wage levels for employees and require overtime pay at the rate of one and one half (1.5) times the regular rate of pay for hours worked in excess of 40 hours per week.
Terms, Conditions, and Privileges of Employment. Employee manuals should include policies governing maternity, family and medical leave that provide for benefits, job restoration, and leave time.
Safety and Health. Federal law requires that employers identify and eliminate health and safety hazards in the workplace. Dental Practice owners should provide a work environment free from hazards that cause death or serious physical harm.
Unemployment Compensation. Dentists and their office managers should be aware of their obligations with respect to unemployment compensation. All states provide for the payment of unemployment compensation benefits to individuals who become unemployed through no fault of their own.
Workers’ Compensation. Failure to provide workers’ compensation insurance can expose an employer to liability for work-related incidents.
Employee Benefits. Failure to properly document and administer employee benefit plans pursuant to all applicable federal laws can result in tax consequences and expose dental practice owners to monetary fines, penalties, and damages.
Equal Employment Opportunities. Federal equal employment opportunity laws prohibit discrimination and harassment in employment based on sex, race, color, national origin, religion, age, and disability. These laws apply to every aspect of the employment relationship.
Record Retention and Posting of Notices. Federal laws require that dental practice owners retain various employment records for specified periods of time. Failure to comply with these requirements can have significant consequences.
Dentists and their office managers should consult with an attorney specializing in labor and employment law to ensure compliance with all applicable local, state and federal laws and regulations.
Stuart J. Oberman, Esq handles a wide range of legal issues for the dental profession including cyber security breaches, employment law, practice sales, OSHA, and HIPAA compliance, real estate transactions, lease agreements, noncompete agreements, dental board complaints, and professional corporations.