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Employee Wage Discussions: What You Can And Can't Do in Dentistry

UPDATED 05/17/2023

Employee wages are always a hot-button topic. As a practice, you may want your team to avoid the subject. But this is a delicate issue.

It’s a given that team members will talk and complain amongst themselves. This isn’t limited to the dental field, but it is a common phenomenon. It’s likely going on in your dental practice right now.

Knowing this tends to unsettle employers, especially when the topic comes to wages. The team might find out how much each makes and request a raise at your office. It’s much simpler for you and your bottom line to forbid the subject.

Not so fast. Employee wage discussions are protected under the National Labor Relations Act, or NLRA. Trying to restrict your team from discussing their working conditions, including pay, could land your dental practice in serious legal hot water.

Recommended Reading: The Fundamental Guide to Overtime Rates and Calculations for Healthcare Practices

Employee Rights Under The NLRA

The National Labor Relations Act protects most private-sector employees in the country. It does not cover government employees, agricultural employees, independent contractors, or other groups. So the chances are high your dental practice is subject to these regulations!

The NLRA allows employees to join together and improve their working conditions. This law protects employee rights to unionize or strike, but these rights exist with or without a union. Since the first step in this process is to discuss their issues amongst themselves, placing a ban on this subject steps into that dangerous legal territory.

So while you may not want to have a discussion with your employees about raising their wages, under the law, this is considered a concerted, protected activity.

You can read more about the NLRA on the National Labor Relations Board’s website.

So What Can A Dental Practice Do?

It’s simple, but it’s true. Paying them fairly is the best way to keep your team happy about their wages. Wages should be decided based on set standards and each individual’s experience and skill. So long as you pay each group member a fair and equal compensation, they will be less likely to complain about their checks. 

Be sure to comply with all local laws regarding employee wages, and avoid underpaying for any reason. A well-paid team is a happy (and loyal) team.

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Time To Update Your Handbook

Your dental practice should review and update the employee handbook regularly. An excellent update to include, if it isn’t already there, is a section showing that you comply with the regulations set forth by the NLRA. The note can (and should) be short, like in the following paragraph:

“Nothing in this Employee Handbook is intended to limit any concerted activities by employees relating to their wages, hours or working conditions, or any other conduct protected by Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA)”

Visit this page for more advice on revising your employee handbook.

For the most part, your dental practice should have no fear of employees discussing their wages amongst themselves. Trying to stop your employees from discussing their wages can foster suspicion among your team or risk a lawsuit against your dental practice. The best way to keep employee wage discussions to a minimum is to pay and treat them fairly.

HR for Health empowers pharmacies, dental offices, and other small healthcare practices with the tools to handle their Human Resources needs. Reach out today for an HR consultation.

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Learn more about managing overtime and wage expections with the experts at HR for Health. Contact us by phone at 877-779-4747 or by emailing compliance@hrforhealth.com today.

HR for Health is one of the nation’s leading Human Resources Management Systems (HRMS) used by small to mid-sized practices. 


Quick note: This is not to be taken as legal or HR advice. Since employment laws change over time and can vary by location and industry, consult a lawyer or HR expert for specific guidance. Learn about HR for Health's HR services