Is This Legal?
I don’t know who to turn to for this question – perhaps you may have the answer. I live in the State of Washington. I have earned my benefits for this past year as I worked 1 year already. The doctor just reduced our pay by $3 and reduced our vacation (originally 9 days) and sick pay (originally 6 days) to be PTO at 10 days now. I used 4 days already from the original agreement and now he says he will deduct the 4 days from the PTO of 10 days. Is this legal for him to take away our earned benefits and make us agree to his terms now?
The legality to changes in compensation can differ by state and the type of employment contract you have with the practice. At will employees are employed for an indefinite amount of time and the employment relationship can be terminated by the employer or employee at any time. Term employees have a specific duration and the contract usually outlines the specifics of ending the contract earlier than outlined.1 If you are an at will employee it is likely that it is legal to have your compensation changed. Dental hygienists, when employed, should have a written employee contract. This contract should cover topics such as the position and duties to be performed, work schedule, compensation, benefits, evaluation periods, salary increase schedule, fringe benefits, vacation/sick leave/holidays and termination of employment process.2 This contract is beneficial to both the employee and the employer as it alleviates any miscommunication of expectations and clearly defines the employment details. If there is no clear written contract which is reviewed and updated on a regular basis, a dentist employer may be able to dictate the terms of employment and then it is up to the employee to decide whether to continue employment at that office. Employment laws differ in each state therefore it is advisable to seek legal counsel if one is unsure they are being treated legally.
This response is provided for general information only and does not constitute legal advice.
1. Beemsterboer PL. Ethics and Law in Dental Hygiene. 2nd Ed.
2. Kimbrough-Walls VJ, Lautar CL. Ethics, Jurisprudence, & Practice Management in Dental Hygiene. 3rd Ed. Elsevier. 2010. Pearson Education. 2012.