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Review dental team classifications today to ensure compliance when the office gets back to practice

May 26, 2020 7261

As California dental practices begin to resume deferred and preventive care according to state guidance, now is a good time for employers to reevaluate their workforce classifications and wage practices. As part of that, employers need to define individual team members’ roles, wages and individual duties and understand when workers can and cannot be classified as independent contractors.

Revisiting AB-5 and the ‘ABC test’

Since Assembly Bill 5 was signed into law last September, Practice Support has continued to field many questions from practice owners and associate dentists about worker classification with regard to pay, benefits and status.

While classifying team members as independent contractors may be financially advantageous, the classification must be legally defensible. Misclassified workers are often denied access to critical benefits and protections, which the COVID-19 pandemic and various federal relief and response packages may have brought to light. Worker misclassification is by far one of the costliest compliance risks facing practice owners who could open themselves up to an audit and penalties for misclassification. 

The CDA articles “Classifying workers as independent contractors under law” and “'ABC test' is now the law, but it's not a free ticket for independent contractors” offer guidance to employers considering classifying individuals as independent contractors under either the Borello or ABC test.

Understand employee pay requirements

You many have been caught off guard by employee pay obligations that continue during employee furloughs. 

Understanding the differences between exempt and nonexempt employees is critical in order to meet the requirements under each worker classification. Desire to ease administrative process and job title do not determine an employee’s status. Employers should always assume an employee is considered nonexempt unless they meet the minimum salary and duties of the exempt role in the business.

Practice Support offers an Employee Exemption Checklist to assist members who are considering an employee’s exempt status. 

Should a mid-day or mid-week closure or unavailability of work occur, employers’ pay obligations differ for exempt and nonexempt employees. Review the reporting time pay considerations for nonexempt employees along with the CDA article “Proceed with caution when making pay deductions for salaried employees.” 

Also, employers should familiarize themselves with Wage Order 4 and The Legal Reference Guide for California Dentists, chapter 4. Both resources answer questions related to employment laws.

If a practice owner determines that modifying an employee’s status, rate of pay, pay structure or schedule is necessary, they should document that status change using the Change in Relationship Notice. 

For associate dentists working in the practice who do not have a written contract, it is recommended that an Associate Agreement be in place to fully outline the terms of the employment relationship. 

Update and implement job descriptions

Use job descriptions to define and justify your employees’ classifications and to set expectations for each employee. Before you and your staff return to the office to resume routine care, review and update job descriptions for any necessary changes to roles and responsibilities. For example, consider if you will have a particular staff member responsible for prescreening patients by telephone or taking patients’ temperatures before they enter the office. Those functions could be added to job descriptions and communicated to the team in advance of returning to full practice. 

CDA Practice Support offers guidance on what a job description should include and provides customizable templates to suit a practice’s individual needs. Visit Job Descriptions: Best Practices, Tools & Samples.

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