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CDHA believes that hygienists should be comfortable discussing and negotiating terms of employment and maintain mutually respectful relationships with their employers. Sometimes unfortunately, that isn’t always the case.
CDHA is here to facilitate those discussions by providing documentation to assist you in your employment contract and labor law negotiations. It is important for both you and your employers to understand basic labor laws and employee rights, how they apply to dental hygienists, and where to go for clarification and/or help, if you need it.
Disclaimer: See below for offficial government agencies you should contact; CDHA does not provide legal advice nor can we interpret the laws.
For questions and claims regarding your employment issues, you should contact the following official federal and state agencies or visit their websites for a wealth of information:
The Labor Commissioner's Office is also known as the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE) under the Department of Industrial Relations (DIR).
Email questions about your employee rights or work arrangements, workers’ compensation, or Cal/OSHA to firstname.lastname@example.org. To find the closest local office, submit a claim, or report a law violation, visit dir.ca.gov/dlse.
For information on Unemployment Insurance benefits, State Disability Insurance benefits, or if you are unable to work because of sickness, injury, or pregnancy, including while waiting to receive workers’ compensation benefits edd.ca.gov.
If you were misclassified as an independent contractor, or if you paid social security and Medicare taxes that should have been paid by your employer, you can file a claim and recover those funds by contacting the IRS.
If your employer is suppressing your rights, such as the freedom to discuss salary, the NLRB offers free legal assistance. You do not need to belong to a union. To find the nearest regional office, visit nlrb.gov.
RDH are generally classified as “employees” by the IRS, the DIR, and the EDD. Just because an employer says you are an “independent contractor” doesn’t make it so.
Both California and the IRS have taken steps to combat the misclassification of employees as independent contractors.
Dental hygienists are non-exempt employees and are entitled to all basic rights of an employee under the law (see below).
To qualify for the “professional” exemption, an employee must meet all requirements for duty and salary including, but not limited to:
CDHA is not aware of any dentist who guarantees their hygienist the minimum required salary even when that hygienist takes time off. Quite the contrary, some dentists are now docking hygiene salaries for openings in the patient schedule.
Having your schedule reduced for patient “no shows”, cancellations, or unfilled openings in your schedule is considered a “contract” issue, rather than a labor law issue.
The law does specify that you must receive a written statement of the terms of employment on the day of hire (Labor Code 2810.5). That is your employment contract and should specify:
Put simply, if you and your employer come to an agreement that you will work a certain period (for example, from 8 AM to 5 PM with an hour lunch on Mondays and Wednesdays), then you are entitled to the agreed-upon wage for that period, regardless of the patient schedule.
There is no law against an employer requiring their dental hygienists to clock in and clock out.
Dental hygienists asked to do a working interview are considered employees and must be paid for the time spent providing dental hygiene services. You do not have the ability, nor can your employer ask you to sign away those rights.
The California Dental Association posted a statement for its members with this information.
All employees are guaranteed specific rights under the law. The Labor Commissioner (DIR), California Code of Regulations, Title 8, and Section 11040 Order regulate wages, hours, and working conditions in professional, technical, clerical, mechanical, and similar occupations. If your employer violates these basic rights, they owe you lost wages plus significant fines.
You should be compensated for all time worked.
You must be paid overtime for all hours worked over eight (8) in one day.
You are guaranteed a ten (10) minute break for every four (4) hours of work.
You are guaranteed a meal break after no more than five (5) hours of work.
For more details, please view the Paid Sick Leave FAQs from the Department of Industrial Relations.
Employee/employer issues need to be addressed. First, you should try to calmly discuss any potential labor law issues with your employer. Hopefully, a satisfactory resolution can be agreed upon.
Don’t wait too long to speak up, make inquiries, or file a claim if you are experiencing employee issues and can’t get resolved by talking with your employer.
Remember that the law is the law. An employee cannot be asked to sign away their rights as a condition of employment.
California Paid Sick Leave - www.dir.ca.gov/dlse/paid_sick_leave.htm
California Independent Contractor - www.dir.ca.gov/dlse/FAQ_IndependentContractor.htm
The Laws Relating to the Time, Manner and Payment of Wages - www.dir.ca.gov/dlse/LawsTimeMannerPaymentWages.pdf
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