Pregnancy and Employment in the Dental Practice

Due to the vast number of female employees in the dental field, the issue of employee pregnancy arises frequently. Many dentists fail to abide by federal law in their dealings with pregnant employees because they simply aren’t familiar with the legislation protecting the pregnant employee: the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA). However, the lack of knowledge surrounding these laws can be costly and can lead dental employers straight into disputes with labor boards.

The Family and Medical Leave Act applies to employers with fifty (50) or more employees. Covered employers must provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to eligible employees. In addition, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), which applies to employers with fifteen (15) or more employees, also prohibits discrimination against pregnant women.

These federal laws provide that women affected by pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions shall be treated the same for all employment-related purposes as other persons not so affected but similar in their ability or inability to work. Further, most states have enacted their own pregnancy discrimination laws. Many states have also lowered the covered employer threshold to those employers with fewer than fifteen (15) employees, with some states requiring that employers with four (4) or more employees comply with such laws.

When federal or state pregnancy laws apply to your dental office, it is important to be aware of and to adhere to certain guidelines. First, if the pregnant employee refuses or is unable to perform certain tasks, then the dental employer must determine what accommodations may be needed. However, if the accommodation would cause an undue hardship and require significant difficulty or expense for the employer, then the employer may deny any accommodation.   In addition, when federal or state laws apply to a dental practice, the dentist must remember that it is illegal to deny employment, promotions, or to fire a woman because she is pregnant. Finally, employees returning from a pregnancy leave are entitled to return to their former or a similar position at the same work schedule and pay, unless there is a legitimate business reason as to why that job is no longer available.

Women are a protected class, and if an employee’s pregnancy is handled inappropriately, the employer could end up in court, incurring costly fees and time away from the practice. Therefore, it is extremely important that dental employers familiarize themselves with the laws that apply to their practice.

Stuart J. Oberman, Esq handles a wide range of legal issues for the dental profession including cyber security breaches, employment law, practice sales, OSHA, and HIPAA compliance, real estate transactions, lease agreements, noncompete agreements, dental board complaints, and professional corporations.

 

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Employment Law: Veterinary Employee Breaks

Many veterinarians have inquired into the legal requirements of providing their employees with lunch or rest breaks. The Fair Labor Standards Act does not require that employers provide any form of lunch or rest periods to employees. However, it does place obligations on those employers who choose to do so. It is important to ensure that veterinary employers who provide lunch or break periods to employees are in compliance with state and federal law.

If an employer offers short breaks [five (5) to twenty (20) minutes] to its employees, the Fair Labor Standards Act considers the break as compensable work hours. These breaks of short duration should be included in the sum of hours worked during the work week and must be considered in determining whether the employee worked overtime. According to the federal law, as long as the employer has clearly communicated the length of the break to the employee and that any extension of the break is against company policy, unauthorized extensions of these work breaks do not need to be counted towards hours worked.

Employers are not legally required to compensate employees for meal periods of thirty (30) minutes or more, provided that the employees are free to use their meal period as they wish and are not required to perform work during this time. These bona fide meal periods serve a different purpose than short work breaks and are therefore not considered work time and are not compensable. However, if an employee works during a lunch break that is intended to be unpaid, the veterinary employer may be obligated to pay additional wages to that employee, including unintended overtime. To prevent employees from working during unpaid meal or lunch periods, a veterinary employer should implement policies requiring employees to eat away from their work space. This will ensure that the veterinary employer will not be liable for paying employees during that time.

Stuart J. Oberman, Esq. handles a wide range of legal issues for the veterinary profession including employment law, practice sales, real estate transactions, lease agreements, OSHA compliance, veterinary board complaints, employment law, and entity formation.
For questions or comments regarding this article
please call (770) 554-1400 or visit www.obermanlaw.com

If you would like Stuart J. Oberman, Esq. to speak at an event to your organization, please contact Katharine Drum, Marketing Coordinator (kath@obermanlaw.com)

 

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