October 29, 2013

Pros and Con(tract)s: Which Employees Need Individual Contracts?

employee contracts being signed

“Your company offers contracts for associate doctors and hygienists, but what about dental assistants, office managers, receptionists, and so forth? In today’s society, wouldn’t it be prudent to have contracts for everyone?”

In general, the answer is no, with the exception of perhaps the high-level office manager on your list. This “no” is also contingent upon the assumption that you have an up-to-date employee handbook with two additional components: a Confidentiality Agreement and an Arbitration Agreement. (Of course you do…right???) As with your handbook, a one-size-fits-all solution for employee contracts will not work.

The problem is that specific components of agreements don’t typically serve your HR needs – for example, you cannot enforce non-competes with anyone on your list except an associate (if your state allows). Agreements can also end up restricting your ability to fire “at will,” or result in you paying out additional amounts at termination. Finally, the content of these agreements can be fertile ground for litigation.

The place where the “at-will” tenet does serve employers well is when it’s reinforced by well thought-out and professionally written policies in your dental or medical office employee handbook. Policies that are customized specifically for your 150 or so state laws and your practice itself are powerful.

So, the general answer is that it is best to avoid employee contracts unless there are specific and legitimate reasons for them. For most of the positions in your office, it is our opinion as HR professionals that the handbook is the best tool for you and your employees. Again, noted exceptions are associates, hygienists, and perhaps the office manager.

Have additional questions about associate or dental hygienist contracts, dental or medical employee confidentiality agreements, or how your dental/medical employee manual should protect you as an employer? Call CEDR anytime at 866-414-6056.

Friendly Disclaimer: This information is general in nature, and is not intended to replace good counsel about a specific issue with either your attorney or your favorite HR expert.

Friendly Disclaimer: This information is general in nature and is not intended to provide legal advice or replace individual guidance about a specific issue with an attorney or HR expert. The information on this page is general human resources guidance that is believed to be current as of the date of publication. Note that CEDR is not a law firm, and as the law is always changing, you should consult with a qualified attorney or HR expert who is familiar with all of the facts of your situation before making a decision about any human resources or employment law matter.


  1. Avatar says

    I own 2 independent practices and need to write a contract for an office manager. We have agreed on all terms including salary, bonuses, hours, vacations, benefits, duties, term, etc. What would a simple office manager agreement cost?

    Thank You,

    Dr Cole

  2. Paul EdwardsPaul Edwards says

    Hi Dr. Cole, We sent you an email and have not heard back. Please check your email as we are going to send another. What you may not realize is that you don’t need a contract and in order for us to confirm and explain, we would need to speak with you to confirm your location and the purpose of the agreement.

    For instance, the primary reason might be to prevent them from competing after they leave or soliciting patients away to a competing practice. But if you are in California or in any number of other jurisdictions, neither of those provisions is legal. Therefore, an “agreement” might not be the best use of your money.

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Please note: CEDR Solutions specializes in providing expert HR support to owners and operators of independently owned medical and dental practices.