What to ask when seeking a dental employee from a temp agency

Dentists will sometimes contact a temp agency to hire a dental assistant, hygienist or front office staff. But dentists aren’t aware that, in some cases, the practice itself, not the temp agency, takes on the risk for that employee.

CDA Practice Support has received numerous calls in recent months regarding a new type of temp agency that sends an employee to a dental practice who becomes a short-term employee of the practice. This model makes the dentist, not the agency, responsible for that employee’s payroll, tax deductions, possible unemployment as well as workers’ compensation.

“Many dentists who use temp agencies believe, albeit mistakenly, that they have no liability for any employment law violations, but under the law today, both the dentist and the temp agency can be held liable depending on the violation,” said Ali Oromchian, Esq., an attorney at a California law firm who specializes in contracts and employment law.

CDA Practice Support has compiled the following questions dentists should ask a temp agency before agreeing to accept an employee:

  • Is the dental staff prescreened for a valid license?
  • Do you perform a background check on your dental staff?
  • Is the dental staff an employee of the agency?
  • Does the agency assume certain employment-related liabilities? i.e., workers’ compensation and Employment Development Department benefits?
  • Does the agency process payroll for the dental staffer, including all payroll taxes and W-2 at the end of the year?
  • How is the office invoiced for hiring the dental staffer from the agency?
  • What is the rate the office pays for a temp hire?
  • Do you have a website?
  • Is the agency associated with or endorsed by the local dental society?
  • Is there a contract between the agency and the office upon hiring a temp dental staffer?

“It’s crucial to not only ask the right questions but also to have your own documentation for each temp employee as if they were not temporary,” Oromchian said.

Oromchian said dentists should use the following best practices if they are going to use a temp agency:

  • The temporary employee should only be paid through the agency.
  • Hiring/firing should be handled by the agency.
  • The duration of employment should be set forth at the beginning of the relationship and should not be too long.

Oromchian strongly encourages dentists to send the temp agency a document for it to sign stating that it takes on all of the liability of any unpaid wage claims by the employee.

CDA reminds dentists that regardless of the arrangement made with the agency, any time they hire a temporary staff person they become what the law refers to as a "joint employer." This means that they share the responsibility for some issues, such as preventing harassment and discrimination.

For more practice support tips, visit cda.org/practicesupport.