Dental Management: Paying Employees Overtime

Dental management: paying employees for overtime workHow Classifications Affect Payment of Overtime

If your first thought was, “This doesn’t apply to me. I don’t pay overtime,” then let’s review. All states either follow the federal Fair Labor Standards Act or the individual state’s wage and hour laws. All wage and hour laws are dependent on classifying your employees correctly as exempt (from wage and hour law) or non-exempt (not exempt from wage and hour law).

With a few exceptions, nearly all employees in dental offices are non-exempt with the exception of the doctor(s), associates and office managers (if they truly manage the staff and office functions). Almost everyone else is non-exempt.

There are some long-held traditions in the dental industry that can get you in trouble under certain conditions:

  • Paying hygienists on a per diem basis
  • Paying everyone on a salary basis to make it easy to do payroll

Let’s examine the pitfalls by considering a typical dental practice as an example. Let’s assume that ABC Practice starts the workday at 7:45 am with morning huddle and sees their first patient at 8:00 am. They end their day at some time between 5:00 and 5:30 pm. The team takes a one-hour lunch. The total hours worked each day is somewhere between 8 and 8¾ hours Monday through Thursday each week.

Most states require that you pay overtime when someone works over 40 hours in a workweek. (A workweek is seven 24-hour days and usually starts at 12:01 on Sunday morning and ends at midnight Saturday night.) Forty hours is standard, with only a few states as exceptions (for example, in Kansas it’s 46 hours, and in Minnesota it’s 48). In several states (CA, NV, and AK), overtime accumulates past 8 hours in a day and then over 40 hours in a workweek.

If you are in one of the majority of states that pay overtime over 40 hours in a workweek, and you have the same type of schedule as ABC Practice, then your employees would work less than 40 hours per week, and they would generally not be eligible for overtime. But in the states where overtime is figured over 8 hours in a day, the employees at ABC Practice would likely incur overtime frequently.

What are the traps that catch dentists, no matter what their state laws are?

  • Not keeping accurate time records. This can be done on your dental software as well as using other methods. You won’t be able to prove someone is owed—or not owed–overtime without accurate time records. And it is legally required.
  • Employees are not required to clock out for lunch. This adds an hour every day.
  • Hygienists are not required to keep time records. This means that all their hours are counted as work hours, including lunch.

More on these issues in a future article.

Barbara Freet, PHRBarbara Freet, PHR is the President of Human Resource Advisors in Lafayette, CA. She has been working with dental practices in all 50 states for over 14 years and has owned and managed her HR consulting firm for over 20 years. If you have questions regarding any part of the employment relationship, please call Barbara or her staff at (925) 283-7305.

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