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Three Top HR Traps to Avoid

Issue: Fall 2016

Human Resources and Employment Compliance, while not as exciting as clinical dentistry, are critically important. Problems can come in various forms, including employee pay, benefits, leave of absence, pregnancy, hiring, and termination. As a result, practitioners are finding themselves trying to defend against employee-related issues that become emotionally and financially draining. If not managed correctly, you can find yourself jeopardizing all you have worked so hard to create.


Here are three human resources traps to avoid:

1) Overtime: Many dentists misunderstand overtime – their thinking is that by paying an employee a salary, overtime does not have to be paid. However, overtime determination relates to duties, authority, and supervision, not method of compensation or awarding the employee a title.

In most states the overtime “trigger” is 40 hours in a week, but some also have a daily trigger. These are often exceeded, especially when continuing education, which requires pay, is factored in. New rules that take place at the end of the year will also make more employees eligible for overtime compensation.

2) I-9 Forms: The I-9 is a document that all employers, no matter the number of employees, must have for each employee. While this requirement has been in place since 1986, dentists still fail to properly manage this area of employment compliance. And there are risks to this. The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) conducted 3,000 audits in fiscal year 2012 (compared with only 250 in 2007). Between 2009 and 2012, fines for I-9 violations grew from $1 million to $13 million.

shutterstock 270307373 800.jpg-220x156.jpg Three Top HR Traps to Avoid

The employee completes section 1 on their first day of employment. Section 2 must be completed by the employer within the next three days and includes examining the specified/allowable documents. The employer also completes Section 3, but only when an employee’s documents expire or an employee is terminated and rehired at a later date. Note that if employment is for three or fewer days, then both Sections 1 and 2 must be completed on the employee’s first day, prior to commencing work duties.

Dentists need to ensure that they are using the most current I-9. The most current form, as of this writing, should be dated to expire on 03/31/16.

Keep your I-9 forms in a separate file. They must be retained for the duration of employment. Upon termination, I-9 forms must be kept for either three years from the date of hire or one year from termination, whichever is longer.

3) Working Interviews: In too many practices, the “working interview” is conducted for hours or days and is not paid. This is a problem. The government’s definition of an ‘emploee’ is very broad – an individual is an employee if they are “permitted to work.” Based on this definition, an unpaid working interview is not allowable even if you haven’t “officially hired” the employee.

Since these individuals are considered employees, Workers’ Compensation insurance may come into play if the person is hurt on a working interview, and you will likely be considered the person’s last employer if the person seeks unemployment compensation.

To test an applicant’s skill before hiring and avoid the risks, follow these guidelines:

  1. Change the name to a “Skills Assessment”
  2. Never have applicants replace regular workers
  3. Keep the length of working interviews to 1–2 hours
  4. Refrain from providing any form of compensation
  5. Be sure no ‘‘productive work” is performed, i.e., a dental assistant or hygienist working on patients. Instead, assess the applicant’s skills on a ceramic model, yourself, or an employee who does not receive dental treatment as part of a benefits program.
  6. Each applicant should sign an agreement, such as our “Skills Assessment Interview Agreement” (Call us today at (800) 679-2760 for a sample copy of form 108).

Human Resources and Employment Compliance are like a minefield, ready to blow up on unaware or unprepared employers. For an audit of your HR practices, contact your local Henry Schein representative.

About the Author: Tim Twigg is the president of Bent Ericksen & Associates. He brings over 30 years of practice management and business consulting experience and knowledge specifically in the healthcare field. His expertise extends to leadership and business development, strategic planning and marketing, and communication skills with an emphasis on personnel and employment law compliance.