Thursday Troubleshooter: RDH not paid for hours she spends preparing her schedule

This dental hygienist's boss does not pay her for the days she spends filling her schedule. Is this legal. Plus, she doesn't understand why she has to handle her schedule when the two front office staff should be doing it.

Jul 21st, 2016
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Do you have a tough issue in your dental office that you would like addressed? Each week the experts on Team Troubleshooter will tackle those issues and provide you with answers. Send questions to megk@pennwell.com.

QUESTION: My question is about commissioned hygienists. Are we obligated to work our own schedule and answer calls at no reimbursement? I tried to discuss this with the dentist, but when I brought it to his attention he told me that this is part of my production. My production in calling patients is my pay. In other words, I'm paying myself for the work put in when working on my schedule. So I have days where I'm there all day 8 to 5 working on the schedule, but I don't get paid a single penny because "my production is my pay." There are two front office staff members whose main duties are scheduling and answering the phones. I don’t understand why I have to do this. What can I do to prove to the dentist that he's taking advantage of me and violating a labor law?

ANSWER FROM REBECCA BOARTFIELD, SHRM-SCP, Bent Ericksen & Associates:
There are a number of human resource and employment compliance variables and factors that come into play with your question. The first one is what state you work in, since many wage and hour requirements pertaining to your question are individual per state.

Second is employee classification (exempt and non-exempt). Most hygienists are non-exempt, meaning they are entitled to be paid at least minimum wage for all hours worked, and be paid time and one-half for all overtime hours worked. Minimum wage rates vary by state. Visit dol.gov/whd/minwage/america to see what yours is.

Overtime hours on a federal level are anything over 40 hours in a week. Some states have daily overtime requirements. For example, California is anything over eight hours in a day and 40 hours in a week. You’ll need to check with your state department of labor for applicable overtime to you.

Third is the method of compensation (salary, hourly, commission, production/piece rate). To meet minimum wage requirements for compensation on a commission or production/piece rate, the amount paid divided by the total hours worked has to be at minimum wage or higher. So the questions become: How much is your production pay? How many total hours did you work? Does it provide minimum wage for all hours worked? Does it include overtime payments, if applicable?

Fourth is the verbal or written understanding or agreement between employer and employee. If the understanding is that making phone calls to fill the hygiene schedule is an expectation for the job, then it would be an assumed duty. Again, provided minimum wage and overtime requirements are met, then your phone call time (while it may seem unproductive) creates the opportunity for production for which you are paid. While I can appreciate that this is an administrative duty, your time represents an investment in ensuring your compensation. The alternative is to not work (and not receive any pay) until the schedule is full enough to justify you working.


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Send your questions to megk@pennwell.com. All inquiries will be answered anonymously every Thursday here on DIQ.

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