I have been a dental hygienist for the past six years. Since I graduated from hygiene school, there has always been a struggle between the dentists and hygienists in the area of supervision. In Florida, the dentists want very strict supervision laws and are extremely opposed to letting us regulate our own profession through a "Dental Hygiene Board."
The mere mention of letting hygienists "independent contract" strikes fear in all of them. The dentists have successfully kept control over us by getting laws passed. We cannot even touch a patient unless the patient has had a dental exam in the past 13 months, and the dentist has diagnosed the procedure.
Hygienists in this state cannot go out and start practicing on their own (no dentist would allow it). It also is against the law to independent contract as a dental hygienist!
When I read your article in the March issue about "temps," it absolutely made me furious. The article kept mentioning that you are considered to be "independent contracting" when doing temporary work? It made me sick to my stomach.
When I first moved to Florida, I loved the flexibility that working as a temporary gave me. What I found out was that dentists liked to pay me cash and not take out any taxes ("independent contractor" they called me).
In doing further research on this issue, I found out that the IRS has several things that it looks for when categorizing employment status. Please refer to FDA Today. It has an article about dentists who contract vs. employees.
Your article states that the rule to determine an independent contractor is "if the business that pays for the services only has the right to control or direct the final result of the work and not the means of accomplishing that result..." Do you read your own articles? Does this mean that I can get a list of patients who need prophys and all I have to do is finish? Please tell me that you understand that scheduled patients, scheduled lunch, and having supervision laws means that the dentist is controlling the means of accomplishing this.
I think that the "temps" have been taken advantage of long enough and you print an article that supports this? When I work one day at an office, they are responsible for taking out my taxes and sending me a W-2 form just like any other employee. There are some temporary agencies that give paychecks (minus taxes) and protect us from this.
This is what your article should have been all about. As a publication that educates dental hygienists, you should be applauding these agencies and reprimanding the dentists who think they can get away with not paying taxes for an employee.
I would like to see in the next issue all of the IRS criteria for independent contracting and why dental hygienists cannot do this. I would like to hear your comments on this subject because it is tax time and some of us have this moral/ethical issue of do we have to pay it or not.
Tracey L. Quinn, RDH
Palm Harbor, Florida
Editor`s note: We asked the author, Cathy Seckman, to respond to the above letter. Seckman writes:
"I`m sorry you misunderstood my intent. In the article on temp work in the March issue of RDH, I did not mean to address the question of hygienists practicing independently of dentists. When I used the term "independent contractor," I was referring only to tax liability questions a temporary worker might face. The information I used came from "Employee or Independent Contractor? Resolving the Dilemma," a Federal Tax Guide Report, Vol. 78, Report 17, April 28, 1995, Part 2. There are indeed many criteria to categorize employment status, and the booklet lists them all. Based on those IRS guidelines, my certified public accountant (who also is quoted in the March RDH article) believes I meet the criteria for independent contractor as a temporary hygienist. I trust his expertise."