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Troubleshooter: Must employees be paid during "forced" week off?

June 2, 2021
Does your dentist tell you when to take time off? Legally, must the dentist pay employees when the office is closed during the dentist's absence?

QUESTION: The dentist I work for owns his practice. The office has four clinical employees and one office manager. The dentist goes out of town every year for continuing education, which means our office is closed and we do not work. Is he legally supposed to pay us during the week he’s out, or would it be up to our discretion to use vacation time?

ANSWER FROM REBECCA BOARTFIELD, HR expert at Bent Ericksen & Associates:
Your employer is under no obligation by law to pay any non-exempt employees when they are not working. This includes office closures. There are some potential exceptions for exempt employees, but most dental office employees are non-exempt. Office managers may be exempt, as could be some other manager-type positions, including associate dentists. Hygienists, dental assistants, treatment coordinators, front desk employees and so on are all going to be non-exempt. 

When the employer closes the practice for these types of events, the time off is unpaid unless the employees can use other benefits such as vacation or paid time off instead. The employee could also file for unemployment benefits, especially for full week absences brought on by office closures. 

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