Dental Offices Must Comply With New Overtime Regulations

dental officeDentists face new problems with overtime for their employees.  The Fair Labor Standards Act[1] (FLSA) sets forth standards for both minimum wages and overtime pay as well as record keeping for businesses.  Whether your dental practice consists of two employees or a hundred employees spread across three office locations, federal law requires that all dental offices comply with FLSA overtime regulations by December 1, 2016.

Exempt Versus Non-Exempt Employees

In order to determine if you are in compliance with FLSA regulations, the first step is to review which employees are designated as exempt, and not owed overtime wages, versus non-exempt. FLSA rules establish three types of exempt employees[2] which are defined by an individual’s employment description rather than their job title including:

  • Executive: An employee that manages a business or department, with the authority to hire and fire employees. To qualify as an exempt executive, the employee must also manage two or more full-time employees.
  • Administrators: To qualify as exempt administrators, individuals must perform office or non-manual work that is related to the business or management. The employee must also be allowed to exercise discretion and independent judgment.
  • Professionals: An exempt professional has received prolonged specialized intellectual instruction, works in a field of science or learning and is able to exercise their own discretion and judgment.

Further, as of May 2016, employees must be paid a minimum of $913.00 per week of $47,476 annually in order to remain classified as exempt and to avoid overtime wages.

Dental Office Employees

In a typical dental office, there are generally three types of employees: dentists, administrators, and dental hygienists.  Both dentists and associate dentists are exempt professionals.  An administrator, who supervises at least 2 full-time employees and is paid at least $41,476, is also exempt.   But is a dental hygienist an exempt employee?

You may be surprised to learn that under FLSA rules, a hygienist is not exempt as a professional.  Instead, it is necessary to confirm that the hygienist is paid at least $913.00 per week and that they completed four academic years of professional study at a college or university accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Dental and Dental Auxiliary Educational Programs of the American Dental Association in order for them to qualify for the exemption and to avoid dental hygienist overtime wages. For hygienists that received their license as part of a two-year Associate program, the exemption does not apply and they must be paid for any overtime hours.

Steps Every Dental Office Should Take

Dentists should be alert of several steps that should be taken prior to the December 1st deadline including:

  • Audit: Regardless of how big or small your business is, review the specifics for each employee and confirm that they are properly identified as exempt or non-exempt employees.  If you are not 100% sure, it is important to speak to an experienced Chicago business attorney in order to avoid the fines, penalties, back pay and overtime wages that could result from non-compliance with the rules in addition to avoiding a claim brought by the Secretary of Labor, a civil lawsuit filed by the employee or even criminal sanctions.
  • Authorization: For all non-exempt employees, it is important to avoid or severely limit overtime hours in order to keep your salary costs, including overtime wages, down.  Non-exempt employees cannot waive overtime[3] in an agreement between employer and employee nor can they work off the clock.  In order to keep track of any dental hygienist overtime hours, make it an office policy that any non-exempt employee must obtain written authorization prior to working overtime.
  • Exempt Status: If you employ a dental hygienist who attended a four-year program but is classified as a non-exempt employee, one option is to qualify them for exempt status by increasing their salary to the $41,476 threshold.  Whether or not that option is economically beneficial for your business will depend on the employee’s current salary and the amounts that he or she may earn based on overtime hours.

Contact an Experienced Chicago Business Attorney

Classifying employees as exempt or non-exempt and making sure that your business has complied with all FLSA regulations can be a daunting task for any business owner and the penalties for failing to do so are severe. The experienced team of Chicago business attorneys at Bellas & Wachowski – Attorneys at Law are familiar with FLSA regulations and can review all of your employees to confirm that your business is in compliance full compliance.  Call our Chicago employment lawyers today for a consultation at 847.823.9032 or use our online contact form.


[1] Fair Labor Standards Act

[2] Exempt employees

[3] Waiver of Overtime Prohibited