Human resources questions answered by the experts at Bent Ericksen & Associates

Aug. 4, 2010
Tim Twigg and Rebecca Crane answer your questions about independent contractors, calculating overtime, and your obligation to pay employees for training time.

Q. An associate is joining my practice as an independent contractor. Is there a specific form I should use for that purpose?

A. There is no specific form, and since such relationships are unique in nature — e.g., acquiring ownership in the practice, professional dues, liability/malpractice insurance, retreatment, etc. — they are usually drafted by an attorney. Please be aware that such agreements are usually for "employment" purposes rather than an independent contractor (IC) relationship. The IRS is now conducting its "most significant audit initiative in decades" in an attempt to address what it believes is a widespread problem of misclassification. If you question whether your associate meets the IC criteria of the IRS, you are best advised to consider this individual to be an employee.

Q. Our practice is located in Minnesota. My office manager believes that my policy of calculating overtime based on my two-week pay periods is inappropriate. What do you advise?

A. The state of Minnesota requires overtime to be paid to non-exempt employees for time actually worked over 40 hours in a workweek. By "actually worked," you may exclude time during the workweek where the employee was on vacation, sick leave, or taking a paid holiday. If, for example, the employee took a paid sick day on Monday, worked eight-hour days on Tuesday and Wednesday, and worked 10 hours each day on Thursday and Friday, you would have to pay for 44 hours at the employee’s regular rate; no overtime would be owed. If all of the 44 hours were time actually worked, it would include four hours of overtime at a time-and-a-half rate. Computing overtime on a two-week pay period is not permissible.

Q. I have a 32-hour, four-day-a-week, Monday through Thursday practice in California. I am planning a two-hour in-office training session on a Friday to acquaint employees with our new software. Do I have an obligation beyond just paying the employees for their two-hour training?

A. Yes. California is one of the few states that imposes a "reporting time" obligation on employers. Since your employees normally work an eight-hour day, exempt employees who are brought back to the office for training on a day off must be paid for the one hour of training and an additional three hours at their regular rate. Under the circumstances you describe, you are required to pay an amount equivalent to one-half of the employee's usual scheduled day.

The opinions expressed above are based on the writer’s comprehensive background as a human resources professional and the policies in our Bent Ericksen & Associates products having been reviewed by legal counsel. The writer is not an attorney, and the advice provided in this message should not be construed as a legal opinion. If you have legal questions after considering the advice and reading any materials referenced, it is recommended that you consult with your attorney.

Author bio
Tim Twigg is the president of Bent Ericksen & Associates, and Rebecca Crane is a human resource compliance consultant with Bent Ericksen & Associates. For 30 years, the company has been a leading authority in human resource and personnel issues, helping dentists successfully deal with the ever-changing and complex labor laws. To receive a complimentary copy of the company’s quarterly newsletter or to learn more about its services, call (800) 679-2760 or visit