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Frequently Asked Questions

Have a question about a pressing risk management issue? Our experienced Risk Management analysts have answers. From treating minors to retaining patient records to employee leaves of absence, chances are, your question has been asked before. The following is a list of frequently asked questions, along with practical solutions, that can help you avoid liability within your practice.

Employment Patient Care Record Keeping Treating Minors

My employee just notified me that she is pregnant. How much time do I allow her to be off work and still have to hold her position?

In California, employers with five or more employees are required by law to provide Pregnancy Disability Leave (PDL) to employees. TDIC recommends that all employers provide this leave regardless of the number of employees in their practice. PDL covers employees for up to four months of leave, taken either before or after birth, for disability due to pregnancy, childbirth or related medical condition (sickness, bed rest, etc.) as determined by their health care provider. Please reference state-specific guidelines for pregnancy.


What is the policy in giving employees their final paychecks when they resign or get terminated from the job?

In California, employees must get a final paycheck immediately when their employment is terminated by the employer. If an employee voluntarily resigns and provides at least 72 hours of notice, the final paycheck must be provided at the end of employment. If an employee voluntarily resigns with less than 72 hours notice, the employer must provide the final paycheck within 72 hours of the employee quitting (Cal Labor Code Section 202).

Please reference state-specific guidelines for final pay.


Can I require employees to bring a doctor’s note if they miss work due to an injury or illness?

Yes. After a certain number of days off for an illness or injury, for example, three days (minimum required amount to be given under California’s Paid Sick Leave law), employees can be required to provide a note. Please reference state-specific guidelines for sick leave. Furthermore, reference your local ordinance as the city may also have their own paid sick leave laws that you must adhere.

However, you must make certain that every employee is required to adhere to this policy and that the policy is in writing. The required doctor’s note should not seek a diagnosis/medical condition; rather, the note should include only that (the name of employee) was seen on (date) at (time of appointment) and further may stipulate any period of partial or total incapacity to perform a job and if the employee is healthy enough to return to work.


Is a hygienist an independent contractor or an employee?

Because different laws may be involved in a particular situation such as a termination of employment, it is possible that the same individual may be considered an employee for purposes of one law and an independent contractor under another law. Because the potential liabilities and penalties are significant if an individual is treated as an independent contractor and later found to be an employee, each working relationship should be thoroughly researched and analyzed before it is established. Based off the criteria of an independent contractor in California, hygienists would not meet that criteria, therefore they need to be classified as nonexempt employees. This is the best approach in light of legal implications around misclassifications. Please reference state-specific guidelines for independent contractor criteria.


If we were to implement an alternative work week, how would we go about this and what forms do I need?

With an alternative work week schedule, there are guidelines that must be followed. In California, these include, but are not limited to, identifying employees affected by the schedule, an office vote, a written work week schedule and submitting the required documents to the Department of Industrial Relations, Division of Labor Statistics and Research within 30 days of the election. For California members, the California Dental Association has a valuable resource with additional information.


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The suggestions provided represent experience and opinions of TDIC. There are no guarantees that any particular idea or suggestion will work in every situation. The ideas and suggestions contained in this document are not legal opinion and should not be relied upon as a substitute for legal advice. For legal advice specific to your practice, you must consult an attorney. 

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