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Human Resources Questions for Dentists: To pay or not to pay

June 9, 2017
Dental practice owners are often not prepared for the multitude of issues that come with handling their staff members. These human resources experts can help practice owners avoid any potential problems.
Rebecca Boartfield and Tim Twigg, Human Resources Experts

Handling a small business and issues that come up with staff members can be daunting for some dentists. After all, they went to dental school, not business school. That's why the experts from Bent Erickson & Associates are here to help. Because no dentist wants to get in trouble due to mishandling staff issues.

This article originally appeared in the Principles of Practice Management e-newsletter. Subscribe to the twice monthly ENL here.

I’m having a problem with my office manager receiving texts many times a day when she is not at the office. Do I owe my office manager time for those texts? Can I tell my her to ignore them, or do I ask that the staff stop?

ANSWER: Your question doesn’t specify whether the office manager is exempt or not. Since more than 95% of dental staff members, even office managers, are non-exempt, I’m going to answer the question assuming this is the case for your office manager. (As an exempt employee, the following information would not apply as it would be part of her salary.)

Yes, you owe her for the time she responds to calls and texts regarding work matters, regardless of when that occurs. You can instruct the office manager to ignore them and not complete any work outside of her normal hours, including answering texts or calls from employees regarding work matters. But if she fails to follow your instructions, you will still need to pay her for her time. Also, you should instruct the staff to stop contacting the office manager outside of her normal work hours, particularly if you don’t want to pay for her time.

QUESTION: An ex-employee of mine is requesting a copy of her personnel file. Do I have to provide it to her?

ANSWER: Whether or not it must be provided is dependent upon the state in which you reside. State laws dictate all the rules surrounding personnel record access, including whether or not an actual copy must be provided to an ex-employee. As a general rule, however, it is easier to simply provide the file (regardless of any law), especially if you have nothing to hide.

QUESTION: My staff tends to ignore my time clock rules and they don’t clock in or out as required. This creates a nightmare at payroll time. Can I dock their pay for failing to adhere to this?

ANSWER: The short answer is, no. You can usually make payroll error corrections to an employee’s next paycheck (check state laws on how to appropriately manage this) to avoid last minute payroll nightmares. But paycheck deductions are not allowed for specific discipline procedures. Employees must be paid for all hours worked.

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Human Resources Questions for Dentists is provided by Rebecca Boartfield and Tim Twigg of Bent Ericksen & Associates. Tim Twigg is president and Rebecca Boartfield is a human resources compliance consultant with Bent Ericksen & Associates. For 30 years, the company has been a leading authority in human resource and personnel issues, helping dentists deal successfully 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