How to handle paying staff overtime in the dental office

“Dear Practice Support” is a feature in the CDA Update. Three times a year, CDA highlights a dentist’s unique employment question received by the CDA Practice Support. Robyn Thomason, Director of CDA Practice Support, then provides an answer.

Dear Practice Support: I have an assistant that works 35 hours a week, with one day being a nine-hour day. Since she never works more than 40 hours during the week, I don’t owe her any overtime, correct?

Answer: While most states adhere to an overtime requirement of any time worked over 40 hours in a workweek, California adds to that requirement, by requiring overtime for any work beyond eight hours in a workday. The Department of Labor states:

In California, the general overtime provisions are that a nonexempt employee 18 years of age or older, or any minor employee 16 or 17 years of age who is not required by law to attend school and is not otherwise prohibited by law from engaging in the subject work, shall not be employed more than eight hours in any workday or more than 40 hours in any workweek unless he or she receives one and one-half times his or her regular rate of pay for all hours worked over eight hours in any workday and over 40 hours in the workweek. Eight hours of labor constitutes a day's work, and employment beyond eight hours in any workday or more than six days in any workweek is permissible provided the employee is compensated for the overtime at not less than:

  1. One and one-half times the employee's regular rate of pay for all hours worked in excess of eight hours up to and including 12 hours in any workday, and for the first eight hours worked on the seventh consecutive day of work in a workweek; and
  2. Double the employee's regular rate of pay for all hours worked in excess of 12 hours in any workday and for all hours worked in excess of eight on the seventh consecutive day of work in a workweek.

Keep in mind, overtime must be paid whether the employee was approved for the overtime or not. If an employee continually works more than eight hours in a day without authorization, then the employee needs to be paid but should be told that working without approval can be grounds for disciplinary action.

While some employees genuinely need to work later in a day due to unforeseen scheduling issues, there still may be others that are abusing the overtime policy. Be sure to have a policy in place that clearly states your overtime policy and approval process and remember that an employee can never waiver their right to overtime pay. Overtime can be costly by either paying overtime daily to employees or paying the penalties for not paying overtime to your employees.

A sample policy such as the one below should be included in your employee manual.

Your position in this office will place you in a classification as exempt or non-exempt. [Employer] will inform you as to whether your position is exempt or non-exempt. Exempt employees will be compensated on a salary basis and are not entitled to overtime pay. Non-exempt employees are compensated on an hourly basis and are eligible for overtime pay. However, all overtime must be approved by the Practice prior to the employee working the overtime. Working overtime without approval may subject employee to disciplinary action, up to and including termination. Holidays, sick days and vacation days are not included when computing work hours for overtime pay.

All non-exempt employees are required to record their time for payroll purposes on [for example, a time clock or a time sheet]. Employees must record their start and stop times, including lunch breaks. Any employee found not appropriately recording their hours will be subject to discipline, up to and including termination.

For more Practice Support resources, visit cda.org/practicesupport.