Q:  We have a Temp hygienist who we are interested in hiring.  Her hours would not be consistent, mostly coverage for vacations and an upcoming maternity leave.  She seems to have been coached by a temp agency and personal accountant that being a W2 employee is the only way to go.  We were hoping to keep her as a 1099 especially if her hours are sporadic.  

 Another concern we have is I believe she would be our 20th employee on payroll.  Aren’t there additional business implications for health insurance, etc once you cross the 20-employee threshold?  

A: That temp hygienist really should be an employee unless she has her own business where she acts as a temp at multiple offices simultaneously. Plus, below are the thresholds that impact practices owners based on the number of employees working at their office:

  • At 20 employees, your practice is subject to the Age Discrimination Act which prohibits employers from discriminating against employees over 40 years old. This will come into play if you have a mass layoff, potentially when terminating someone for an issue related to age (computer knowledge, speed, etc.)
  • For the MA Paid Family Medical Leave (PFML), smaller employers can elect to have this new tax paid 100% by staff.  Once a practice has 25 or more employees, the employer also pays a portion towards the PFML payroll tax.
  • And health Insurance coverage is mandated once your practice has 50 or more employees.


Q: I unfortunately had to terminate an employee 1 month ago. She worked for me for about 5 months and after consulting with an employment attorney regarding various issues she was causing, I terminated her employment. I just received a notice that she applied for unemployment and my maximum potential benefit charge is $6,129. Am I obligated to approve of this? 

A: The majority of the time when an employee is terminated in MA they are eligible for unemployment, so it may not be worth your time to do an appeal.  Be sure to answer any questionnaires you receive about the case in a timely manner.  Keep in mind, the amount of unemployment she collects is not a bill that you pay directly.

As an employer, you can request a hearing and try to fight the unemployment claim, but you most likely won’t succeed. So unfortunately, the $6,129 of unemployment benefits will be paid out to her (unless she gets another job soon), and your practice will ultimately need to replenish the unemployment fund for that amount with a higher unemployment tax rate in subsequent years. Every employer in Mass has their own “account” with unemployment where they track contributions made and benefits paid.  A rate is set each year to keep each employer’s account at a certain level compared to the salaries they pay.