Don't have employment agreements? You could be liable

Skipping out on employment agreements could mean thousands of dollars in liabilities. Are you protected? Here's how you can shelter your business from harm.
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Employers have a tendency to hire new talent and assume that the hard work is done. The truth is that onboarding a new dentist or dental hygienist is often just the beginning - the beginning of a long adjustment period, the beginning of training and assessment, and the beginning of all the paperwork, especially if you’ve made the mistake of relying on a turn-and-burn temp agency that has its bottom line in mind rather than your own long-term needs. After the placement agency fills your job opening, who has to deal with the results, whether good or bad? You, of course.

That’s why it’s so important to not only have an employment agreement in place of all your new hires but to use an agreement that includes the language and provisions necessary to minimize liability and protect your assets. If you'd be interested in receiving a dental employment agreement template, we'd be happy to share one with you. Just schedule a time to talk to us here.

Emphasize that Employment is At-Will

“At-will employment” refers to professional relationships that an employer can end at any time and for (almost) any reason. While discrimination is still obviously out of bounds, employers can fire workers hired at-will without any need to justify the termination and that employee can’t try to claim a resulting loss, such as filing against the company for unemployment.

Most states consider at-will employment to be the legal default, but there are exceptions to the rule. Specifying at-will employment as part of a hiring agreement ensures that you won’t be saddled with an underperforming dental assistant or a receptionist who just doesn’t seem like the right fit. Beware, though, that at-will conditions work both ways – your hires can also leave at any time, without notice or justification.

In some situations, you may be able to treat your dental professionals as independent contractors. You can read more about that here.

Detail the Conditions of Overtime Pay

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) dictates that employees who work in excess of 40 hours per week must receive overtime pay at 150% of their normal hourly rate. However, there are numerous exceptions. That government does not mandate overtime pay for hours worked on weekends or holidays (assuming those hours fall within the base 40) and there are exemptions for other types of employees as well. That said, if you want your employee to be exempt from overtime laws, you must outline that in the employment agreement. Fail to do so and you may face an unexpected challenge from the employee or even the IRS.

Stipulate a Non-Compete

Non-compete agreements prevent employees from defecting to a competitor and taking your beloved client list with them. It also blocks them from taking advantage of your generous on-the-job training and then heading over to the dental practice down the street as soon as another opportunity opens up. Legally, non-competes must define details such as geography, time, and scope in reasonable terms. That means that you can’t realistically ask someone to promise they won’t work in dentistry anywhere in the United States for 10 years and expect the contract to hold up, however you could theoretically require they not work for another dentist within 20 miles for a term of 6 months.

Non-competes must also be signed in exchange for a benefit in order to be considered valid. It’s therefore in your best interest to include a non-compete clause in an employment agreement at the time of hiring. In that instance, the employment itself is the benefit, while later on a newly introduced non-compete must be accompanied by an additional perk not included in the original agreement (a promotion or increase in salary is typical).

Insist on Confidentiality

Non-compete agreements and non-disclosure clauses often go hand in hand, and there’s a good reason for that. As much as you don’t want an employee to leave your company for a competitor, you really don’t want them to spill your secrets along the way. From what makes your scheduling system so foolproof to the techniques you use to calm an anxious patient, there are trade secrets that you need to protect. Confidentiality is especially important in dentistry as you want to guard patient privacy at all costs. Include non-disclosure/confidentiality in your employment agreement and you then have the ability to go to court and get an injunction against any current or former staff members who may be speaking out of turn.

The last thing you need is to become embroiled in a bitter “he said she said” battle that saps your time and energy. Cover your bases with an employment agreement designed with all the points above in mind. To get your free copy, simply schedule a time to speak to us about Cloud Dentistry and we'll give you an easy-to-use template.

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Written By Trey Tepichin