Abiding by Popular Overtime Myths Can be Costly for Dentists

In a recent Dental Economics article “Dispelling overtime myths,” President of HR firm Bent Erikson & Associates Tim Twigg and HR Compliance Consultant Rebecca Boartfield bring to light the common mistakes and misconceptions that lead to dentists incorrectly paying overtime.

All employers are responsible for a thorough understanding of all federal and state-specific overtime rules. In most states, any time worked in addition to a 40-hour work week constitutes overtime pay, however, some states have daily overtime triggers, which means employees receive overtime pay when the hours worked in a day exceed the daily defined limit. Because these rules are cut and dry, Twigg and Boartfield say most of the overtime mistakes they see dentists make stem from one of more of the five following myths.

  • Myth 1: Salaried employees are not entitled to overtime pay. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which regulates wage and hour laws, classifies employees into two categories: exempt and nonexempt. These are the only two classifications that matter when determining if someone should receive overtime pay. Most if not all dental employees, including those who are salaried, fall under the nonexempt status and therefor are entitled to earn overtime pay. 
  • Myth 2: Employees who don’t get approval to work overtime don’t have to be paid for it. Regardless of whether or not the work was permitted, Twigg and Boartfield point out that employers must pay when overtime work has been performed. “While you can’t mess with the employees’ pay, you ca discipline them for failing to follow proper procedures,” they write. They suggest to clearly communicate to your employees their schedules and your attitude about them working overtime. Make it clear if overtime is not permissible and require employees to get your approval prior to working overtime. Once the expectations are understood, failure to follow your guidelines should result in a disciplinary action, but not paying them is not an option.
  • Myth 3: If their overtime is not included on their time sheets, they don’t get the extra pay. Because it is the burden of the employer to prove the employees were paid correctly, a time sheet might not be enough evidence if the Department of Labor is investigating an employee’s complaint. The DOL will try to find out if you knew or should have known the employee was working overtime and didn’t pay them for it by looking at things like your appointment book. Twigg and Boartfield suggest verifying with all employees that their timecards are correct and include all overtime hours in order to pay each person the correct amount the first time.
  • Myth 4: Employees can choose time off instead of overtime pay. Right now, comp time, or time off in lieu of paying overtime is not permitted in the private sector.
  • Myth 5: When staff is paid overtime for any time they work more than 40 hours in a week, the need not be paid for the daily overtime hours required by state regulations. Employers who are covered by daily overtime regulations in their state must pay overtime for any time worked more than the daily limit and/or 40 hours in a work week. One does not eliminate the other. To avoid duplicating overtime, Twigg and Boartfield recommend referencing that DOL agencies provide that the employee must be paid overtime for all hours in the workweek in excess of the applicable daily maximum or in excess of the applicable weekly maximum, whichever is greater.

“Remember the adage, ‘If it seems too good to be true it probably is?’ ” The duo writes. “This is true of any solution to overtime pay you may have heard about. The fact is that both federal and state governments want employees to be paid a premium for working beyond either weekly or daily overtime definitions.” When in doubt, they write, pay it out. 

Katie Devereaux

Katie Devereaux

Resume Coach and Blogger at Dental Temps Professional Services
Katie Devereaux is a writer and editor, who graduated from the University of Florida with a Bachelor’s Degree in journalism. She has written for several publications in Florida, Alaska and Illinois.
Katie Devereaux

About Katie Devereaux

Katie Devereaux is a writer and editor, who graduated from the University of Florida with a Bachelor’s Degree in journalism. She has written for several publications in Florida, Alaska and Illinois.