Ask Linda Miles: working past quitting time and pay for attending CE courses

March 16, 2012
Readers ask Linda Miles two questions this month: Is it fair for an employer to deliberately work past quitting time without asking the team members if they mind? Are other practices’ staff members paid to attend CE courses?
QUESTION: Is it fair for an employer to deliberately work past quitting time without asking the team members if they mind? Our doctor was recently divorced. Lately he has started working late, beyond 6 p.m. many days. He assumes it is OK for him to do this since we are paid by the hour. These are not emergency patients. He never asks if we have plans and acts as if we should appreciate the extra hour or more of pay.ANSWER: If your office hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., you should NOT be expected to work overtime for more than an hour without your employer conferring with those who will be affected. All dental team members realize dentistry is not a typical 8 to 5 job, and working 15 minutes past quitting time can be a norm. But deliberately working past 6 p.m. because it suits your employer or is convenient for a patient is totally unfair to the staff. I am surprised by how many complaints I receive due to this very situation. It is time for one team member on behalf of the entire team to explain to the doctor that most team members have other important things to do after work. If your doctor is reasonable, he will take this into consideration. Most likely he feels that because you are on the clock, it is OK. It is NOT OK.QUESTION: Are other practices' staff members paid to attend CE courses? Our doctor believes that we should "donate" our time for Friday or weekend courses if she pays our registration fees. We feel we should be paid a salary because what we learn on our time helps build the practice. This happens at least four to six days each year. What do other offices do? ANSWER: All practices should have an office policy manual with practice guidelines outlining the office policy on CE and the time and costs involved. Every employer needs to be aware of the State Employment Acts for employees. These clearly state how employees are compensated for nonpatient hours. Some state laws dictate that not only are the course hours paid but the hours to and from the course are counted as well. To avoid overtime hours and to be fair to the employer, many of those state laws allow the employer to have two different pay rates. Some dentists use administrative pay for staff meetings, CE, and marketing projects. The rule in most states for administrative pay is that it must be at least minimum wage. Some practices pay half the normal salary for nonpatient hours. Some state requirements differ if there are fewer employees. State employee laws supersede federal guidelines. I highly recommend contacting Bent Ericksen and Associates, the No. 1 human resource company for dentistry. They can provide you with information on employee benefits and manuals. Author bioLinda Miles is the founder of Linda Miles & Associates (Now Miles Global). She started the The Speaking Consulting Network in 1997. To contact her, click here or call (757) 721-3125.