Compliance when using Independent Contractors for Dental Practices

Wednesday, Sep 24, 2014

Based on the number of calls coming in to CDA’s Practice Support, there seems to be confusion among dentists about how to pay hygienists and associates who are classified as independent contractors.

The main thing for dentists to understand is the definition of an independent contractor. A true independent contractor is a provider who works independently of the owner, has a contract with the practice to perform special services and makes their own schedule. An example would be an oral surgeon, endodontist or orthodontist. CDA has received feedback from several attorneys regarding the classification of hygienists and they advised that dentists err on the side of caution and classify them as employees.

Lawsuits have surfaced recently about hygienists suing their former employer for overtime pay and rest and meal period violations. In most cases, the employee was classified as an independent contractor, and therefore, the office was penalized on top of the back pay for misclassification of an employee. The penalties can be as high as $20,000.

CDA Practice Advisor Marcela Truxal typically advises dentists to classify their registered dental hygienists as nonexempt, W-2 employees to avoid any risk of misclassification. She also sends them four CDA resources on the topic  (Are You Paying Your Hygienists Overtime?, Dental Hygienist, Independent Contracting and Independent Contractor Reporting Requirements — all are available at www.cda.org/practicesupport).

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