Steps for adopting alternative workweek

Managing the ins and outs of running a business and keeping track of changing state laws can be a challenge for many small-business owners, including dentists. CDA Practice Support offers clarity to its member dentists by providing resources and addressing issues, like overtime pay and implementing an alternative workweek for employees, which can be difficult to navigate.

In general, overtime must be paid to employees who work more than eight hours in a day, or 40 hours in a week, unless an employer has appropriately established an alternative workweek. California allows employers the flexibility of having employees work more than eight hours in a 24-hour period without paying overtime if they have incorporated and registered an alternative workweek schedule, as approved by the affected staff.

“The key is that the employer must have a two-thirds vote by employees affected by the schedule, and the schedule must be consistent, regular and registered with the state,” said CDA Practice Analyst Michelle Corbo. “And it is important that the employer stay consistent with the schedule on file as it could appear they are attempting to avoid paying their employees overtime.”

If dentists are considering offering a schedule for an alternative workweek, there are a few key steps that must be taken first. For starters, employers should identify all of the employees or departments that will be affected by the alternative workweek schedule (hygiene, back office, front office, all employees in the office, etc.), and should put together a written proposal to distribute to staff members. Any written proposal must be in English, as well as a non-English language if at least 5 percent of the affected employees primarily speak a non-English language.

When developing the proposed alternative schedule, note that a regularly scheduled workday cannot be more than 10 hours or fewer than four, and that a regularly scheduled workweek cannot exceed 40 hours.

“It’s important to keep in mind that overtime laws do still apply for those days when the employee works more than the allotted 10-hour day or any more than 40 hours in a week,” said Corbo. “In addition, it’s important to note that, meal and rest break laws still apply to an alternative schedule.”

Employees who work a 10-hour day are entitled to three 10-minute paid rest breaks throughout the workday and a 30-minute unpaid meal break taken no later than the end of the employee’s fifth hour of work (four hours and 59 minutes).

Employers should ask themselves how the new schedule will impact employees’ hours, wages and benefits, such as accrual of vacation, and ensure that the alternative workweek schedule does not result in a reduction in the employees’ regular hourly rate of pay. Before the alternative workweek can commence, dentists must conduct a secret ballot election, during working hours. Prior to distributing the ballot form, hold a staff meeting to announce the upcoming election for the alternative workweek schedule. A sample secret ballot form is available for CDA members at cda.org/practicesupport, along with a sample memo to employees and the necessary notice form for the state.

If passed, announce the start date of the new schedule and give employees at least 30 days’ notice after the election informing them of the start date. Finally, send the election results and required information to the Department of Industrial Relations, Division of Labor Statistics and Research within 30 days of the election.

For more information, or to view any of the related resources, visit cda.org/practicesupport or search “alternative workweek” on cda.org

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