Avoiding Minefields in the Dental Practice Part 2: Common Pitfalls and How to Stay Compliant

When it comes to liability, HR is the one item that catches many offices by surprise. But, like any other industry, dentistry can be a legal minefield if you let the department slip.

In part two of this blog series, we discussed some of the recent trends and updates Ali Oromchian, Esq. brought up in his webinar. For this follow-up piece, we’ll cover some common mistakes practices make and how to avoid them to stay compliant in 2023 and beyond.

Common Compliance Pitfalls for Dental Practices

Wage and Hour Mistakes

According to Ali, the number one mistake dental practices make that gets them sued is errors in wages and hours. Paying workers correctly for their time is essential, with rest and meal breaks built in. If the hours and pay don’t add up on their paycheck, your practice could be in serious legal trouble.

Rest and Meal Breaks

Most states require employers to provide a 30-minute, uninterrupted, duty-free meal break each day for full-time employees. Some states also enforce 5-15 minute rest breaks in the morning and afternoon. It’s important to note that restroom breaks don’t count for either of these scenarios. Keep a record, as you could owe penalties without proof that you’re providing breaks.

Overtime Payment

Like any business, dental practices must pay overtime to all non-exempt employees—even for some salaried workers. Doctor associates, office managers and possibly hygienists could be exempt under certain circumstances, but it’s important to check with state and federal rules. When calculating overtime, keep in mind that nondiscretionary bonuses must be included in an employee’s regular rate of pay.

Terminating an Employee

Terminations are inherently risky. Although most states have an “at will” clause, it’s increasingly difficult for an employer to fire someone without a solid reason. You’ll also need documentation that shows you didn’t terminate an employee for discriminatory reasons. In general, Ali says it’s never a good idea to fire someone if they are pregnant, disabled or old. Not only do pregnant people and those with disabilities have special legal protections, but terminating an employee approaching the age of 60 or older increases the risk of an age discrimination lawsuit.

How to Stay HR Compliant in 2023

So, how can your practice stay HR compliant? Here are five tips Ali shared during the webinar:

  1. Gather Your New-Hire Documents: Update your new-hire checklist with the most current versions of federal and practice-specific employee documents.
  2. Update Your Employee Handbook: Review your employee handbook and update policies to comply with new legislation.
  3. Review Minimum Wage Requirements: Ensure your practice meets minimum wage and salary requirements based on your city or state regulations.
  4. Evaluate Training and Certifications: Review your employee certifications and training programs to see if they’re expired and need updating.
  5. Align Time Clock and Benefits: Make sure your employees’ hours and benefits match according to the law and your benefits package.

Interested in learning more about how to keep your dental practice HR-compliant? Watch the webinar with Ali Oromchian, Esq. and read the first part of this blog series if you haven’t already.

If you are interested in seeking advice from Ali Oromchian, Esq. regarding your dental practice or any other dental legal matters, you can easily reach out to him for a complimentary consultation. You can visit his website and fill out a contact form or call during weekly hours at 925-999-8200. Mr. Oromchian and his experienced, legal team are dedicated to helping dental professionals like you achieve their career goals. After all, they've done it thousands of times!