Misnomer of the Independent Contractors/1099

Sometimes, dental hygienists are misclassified as an independent contractor. When this happens, they receive a 1099 in the mail for their tax document. Unfortunately, misclassifying workers can have serious consequences. The IRS is starting to crack down on employers who misclassify employees. What can you do if you notice you have been misclassified? We’ll go over everything you need to know. 

 What is a 1099 Contract Worker?

A contract worker signs a W-9 instead of a W-2. However, the big difference is in how much an employee owes in taxes. Contract workers assume the entire 15% tax burden along with forgoing other employee protections, reducing the employer’s tax burden by an estimated 30%. Contract workers also do not have any taxes withheld from their paycheck and depending on how much they make, they most likely will be required to pay estimated quarterly taxes or pay all taxes in a lump sum come tax time. The IRS requires a business to issue a 1099 to any contract worker who earns more than $600 a year. In contrast, a W-2 employee has a significantly lower tax burden. This is because the employer is required to match the Social Security and Medicare contributions. A W-2 employee does have the option to withhold money from their paycheck for taxes. 

 How are Misclassifications Happening?

Some dentist employers misclassify dental hygienists as contractors. While this practice has been going on for decades, it is illegal in nearly every situation. This practice is often used when a dental hygienist works as a temporary, filling in for the regular hygienist or helping an office with a heavy schedule for a short time. However, this practice has been expanding with a growing number of dental offices reclassifying regular employees, either full or part time, as independent contractors. 

In some cases, the employer will claim their accountant has determined it is okay to pay dental hygienists as a contractor. However, the IRS definition of an independent contractor is very clear and specific and it is actually quite rare that a dental hygienist would qualify under the IRS guidelines as an independent contractor. 

So What is the Big Deal?

Misclassifying employees is illegal. Up until recently, the issue was rarely pursued. This was because the IRS’s goal was to collect taxes from whomever was willing to fork up the money. However, with more employers purposely misclassifying their employees, the IRS is now cracking down on this illegal practice. 

As an employee, if you are changed to a contract worker status, you get a huge pay cut (due to the increased amount of taxes you’ll owe) if you don’t also receive a pay increase. And you will no longer be eligible for employee benefits such as worker’s compensation, unemployment insurance or paid overtime. 

What Are Your Options as a Misclassified Employee?

All employee wages are made aware to the IRS, so failing to report income is illegal and can come with serious consequences. There are a few options an employee who has been misclassified can choose from:

  • Option 1 – Not the best option for your pocketbook, but the simplest option: Report your income and accept responsibility for the 15% tax burden, filing as a 1099 contract worker.
  • Option 2 – A slightly better option but may not get results: Contact the dental office and request a W-2. Include the definitions of a contract worker and a completed W-4 for their records. Hand deliver this request or use certified mail with return receipt requested to verify the request was sent and received. 
  • Option 3 – The ideal option: File an SS-8. This notifies the IRS that you may have been misclassified. A file will eventually be opened and the IRS will make a ruling. If the IRS determines that you were misclassified, the employer will be required to pay all back taxes, fines and penalties for late payment. Including IRS form 8919 in your tax return is the most correct way to determine the employee tax rate. 

Option one is probably best for those who made only a couple hundred dollars from a job; in the future, be sure an employer does not misclassify you. However, if you made a couple thousand or more, the third option is your best way to proceed.

Bullying in the Dental Office

We’ve all heard stories about kids being cyberbullied by peers online or bullied at school. But bullying can happen in any environment, including at work, and it has become a growing concern across the country. In dental offices, bullying of dental assistants has become an ever increasing concern. The forms of bullying in the workplace can include verbal, nonverbal, psychological and even physical abuse. 

The Effects of Bullying

Beyond that, bullying at the office can have devastating effects not only on the person being abused and the workplace culture itself, but it can also have a financial impact on your business. Bullying in the workplace can result in decreased productivity, sick leave, health issues, employee disengagement and the cost of training new staff. Dental offices aren’t immune to workplace bullying. And while a lot of dental offices are aware this problem exists, they are often unprepared for when it does happen. 

Reasons Why it Happens

So why does it happen and why are we not prepared for it? Often, bullying is tolerated because it is seen as a style of leadership for someone who is difficult to work with or for. In many cases, there is a lack of workplace policies about bullying and the procedures in place for dealing with it. And for those who are being bullied by a superior, it can be scary to speak out, for fear of retaliation.

What Bullying in the Office Can Look Like

Bullying in the office can come in many forms. It can be peer to peer or a superior bullying an employee. Just a few examples include withholding work related information, isolation or exclusion, micromanagement, setting an employee up to purposely fail, incessant criticism or even jealousy. 

What to Do if You Suspect Your are a Victim of Bullying

  • Document the who, what, why, where and when. Document the frequency and pattern of incidents. Having strong evidence of the bullying will make it difficult for the bully to deny it when confronted.
  • Read up on the subject. Knowledge is power that will help you deal with the situation. It will also help you know that you are not alone.
  • Talk to someone about it. Don’t bottle up your emotions. Talk to colleagues you trust to see if they have witnessed any of the incidents that you have experienced.
  • After the bully has been confronted and they haven’t changed, know your limits and when it is time to leave and find a place where you will be respected for your work and what you bring to the business. 

What to Do if You Witness Bullying or it is Reported to You

  • If you witness it, document it. Include the who, what, where, when and why. Use this information when discussing the issue with the bully. 
  • Confront the bully. Remind them that you are both adults and that their actions have no place in a successful business. 
  • Be strong and don’t be emotional when discussing the issue with the bully. Use facts and don’t be surprised if the bully tries to turn the discussion into an emotional one. Rise above that and be professional.
  • After confronting the bully, look to see if things change. If they do, that is great. If not, then you need to decide if they need to be spoken to again or let go. 


Remember, the common thread among bullies, no matter where the abuse is happening, is that they do it to feel better about themselves. Misery loves company. Don’t give them that satisfaction. For the person being abused, stand up to them or report the abuse to a superior. And if you witness abuse, don’t be silent. It will seem difficult at the time, but dealing with a bully can really improve the workplace environment and improve the business overall.

Make Yourself an Asset that Brings Value to the Office

It’s important to make sure that you are worth the pay rate or salary that you are asking for, otherwise, you won’t get that rate or raise. In order to make yourself worthy of what you ask for in pay, you must make yourself an asset. It’s important to understand that it is more than just showing up on time and doing your own work. It’s about bringing value to the office. Here are some tips to help make yourself an asset that brings value to the office. 

Work Ethic

Having a strong work ethic is important for success. It shows that you care about what you do and that you take it just as seriously as your boss. Forming these good habits is essential to impressing your employer.

Manage Your Time: Increase your productivity by using your time wisely. Some ways to help you manage your time include making a “to do” list and prioritizing it, planning ahead and don’t multitask (research shows you actually accomplish less when you try to multitask). 

Get Focused: Eliminate distractions and don’t procrastinate. Focus on the task at hand and be persistent. 

Follow Office Policies and Procedures: Be sure to follow all office policies and procedures. If you have an issue with something, bring it up with your boss in a respectful way that allows for dialogue. 

If You are On Time, You’re Late: Make sure to plan a little extra time into your morning commute just in case of traffic and arrive a few minutes early to work each day. This will ensure that you are ready to hit the ground running as soon as you’re on the clock.

Be a Team Player: Make sure that you are working as part of the team. Don’t complain when a task gets assigned to you or when you are asked to help with something. Go above and beyond by cross training so you can help others in the office when they need it or can fill in for someone when they are out sick or on vacation. Showing you are willing to take on more when needed means you will be an indispensable part of the team. And don’t forget to be kind to your co-workers!


Your attitude affects your work. Having a positive mindset will not only make the work you do better, but it will also increase your own personal job satisfaction. 

Don’t Gossip: Remember to not gossip about co-workers or patients. Not only does this waste time at work but it also creates cliques that can create bad attitudes, destroy trust and ruin teamwork. 

Show Enthusiasm: When you do your work with enthusiasm, you are more likely to do better work. Being passionate about what you do shows your employer you care. Not only that, but it is infectious and you’ll help your entire team be excited to come to work each day!

Be Kind and Courteous: Not only do you need to be kind and courteous to your co-workers, but show respect to your patients as well. Don’t make them feel like you are in a hurry. Instead, take time to answer their questions or concerns to show you care. This not only brings worth to your employer, but your clients as well. 

Professional Appearance

When you are at work, remember that you are representing your office or staffing company. Make sure you have a professional appearance and you’ll prove that you put the office’s reputation first. 

Personal Hygiene: It should go without saying, but make sure that you keep up with your personal hygiene. That means having clean teeth, breath and hair among other things. 

Neat Appearance: Have a clean and neat appearance and wear professional attire. Make sure your nails are clean and that your manicures are not over the top. Your hair should also be styled in a professional manner. 

The Nose Knows: Make sure that you don’t wear too much perfume or cologne. You don’t want to overwhelm co-workers and patients with sensitive noses. You also don’t want to smell like smoke, which can affect those with sensitive noses or asthma. And don’t forget to wear deodorant!

OSHA Compliance: Are Things Changing? Do They Need to Change?

The Effects of COVID-19 on Dental Practices

Coronavirus has had a huge effect on how we are living our daily lives, from many staying home as much as possible to wearing masks while out. Scientists have also said that life will continue to be different as we wait for the curve to flatten out across the country and for a possible vaccine or treatment for the virus. As the infection curve begins to drop, many governors are allowing certain businesses to open back up. What will this mean for your dental practice? Will things change and if so, how will they change?

During the time of Coronavirus, things will most definitely need to change in order to protect everyone and to limit the spread of the virus. Many scientists have agreed that there will most likely be a new “normal” even after we have flattened the curve. It may be some time before a real treatment or a vaccine will be discovered and until then, we will need to exercise caution in all types of settings. Some scientists think there could be a resurgence of COVID-19 in the fall. And this will mean that even after flattening the curve, there will need to be changes to how we live daily life, including how we receive medical and dental treatment. 

Who Can be Treated

First, it is important to understand we have to stop or limit the spread of COVID-19 until a vaccine is found. We must all do our part, including using infection control procedures in dental facilities. Because of this, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has recommended that during COVID-19, dental practices postpone elective procedures, surgeries and non-urgent dental visits and prioritize urgent and emergency visits. This recommendation also aligns with the recommendations from the American Dental Association (ADA),  the American Dental Hygienists’ Association (ADHA) as well as the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. In other words, all non-essential exams and procedures should be postponed until further notice. And by focusing on emergency dental visits in your office, you will also help alleviate the burden that dental emergencies would otherwise place on hospitals emergency departments. 

How to Treat Emergency Dental Patients with Coronavirus

If you have an emergency patient with known or suspected COVID-19, dental providers should follow interim guidance from the CDC for both dental settings and healthcare settings to ensure the safety of you and your office staff. Some of these steps include using proper PPE such as eye protection, masks, gowns and gloves. It is also recommended that during aerosol-generating procedures that your mask be an N95 respirator. All PPE should be thrown out after each patient visit, donning new PPE for every patient you see in your office. If you cannot follow this guidance, the CDC recommends that you work with colleagues and other medical providers to determine the appropriate facility for treatment. The urgency and need for a procedure should be based on your clinical judgement and made on a case-by-case basis. 

Keeping Your Clinic Clean

Keeping things in your clinic sterile and clean has probably always been a priority for you, however, it is of even more importance now. In order to limit the spread of Coronavirus, it is recommended that you implement a heavier disinfecting protocol in your clinic. This means that you should disinfect all surfaces in your examination rooms before a new patient enters. These surfaces should include but not be limited to: the dental chair, dental lights, countertops and drawer handles. It is also recommended that you cover some equipment with protective covers that are replaced after each cleaning of the exam room. Be sure that you and your staff also thoroughly disinfect all non-disposable tools between each patient. Before seeing a patient and putting on a new pair of gloves, your whole team needs to wash their hands thoroughly as well. 

Don’t forget to disinfect any areas in your lobby that your patients may have come into contact with, such as the reception desk and door handles. Only have one patient in your office at a time and the patient should come by themselves. If they need a ride home after a procedure, their driver should wait outside. 

Keeping Your Employees Safe

Not only do you want to ensure that your patients are safe, but your employees as well. If an employee suspects they have Coronavirus or has come into contact with someone with a known case, do not allow them to come into the office for two weeks. If they are not showing any symptoms after two weeks, it should be safe for them to come back to work. Remember that there can be asymptomatic carriers of the virus so you and your dental staff should practice social distancing as much as possible and wear masks when needed, even when there isn’t a patient in the office. Also, follow guidance from the CDC and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to keep you and your employees safe. 

In the Future: After the Curve Flattens

No one really knows what to expect in the future, other than that things will have to change until a vaccine is found. Many are referring to this as a “new normal.” At some point, you should be able to start seeing patients for non-emergency procedures and check-ups. You will need to continue to heavily clean and disinfect your clinic and it may be that you will only be able to have one patient at a time in your office. Now and in the future, you will need to continue to follow the guidance of the ADA, ADHA, CDC and OSHA to protect you, your staff and your patients. Remember, we are all in this together and must all do our part to help limit and stop the spread of COVID-19.