Human Resources

Human Resources for Dental Practices: Can a paycheck be docked for excessive absence?

Jan. 27, 2014
Dentists need to know for what purposes they can dock a paycheck  


Q: One of my staff members constantly calls in and says she is not able to come to work that day. So far I have paid her full salary. Can I dock her pay for the time she is not working?

A: In your case, since she is a non-exempt employee, the answer is yes. Whether a non-exempt employee is paid hourly or salary, you do not have to pay for time not worked. This should be communicated in policy form, and care must be taken based on what precedent with this person or other staff has been set. Studies show that employees who are excessively absent are not happy, and their unhappiness is usually reflected negatively in other aspects of their job performance. If absences continue, warn her that you will be docking her pay and will be taking disciplinary action, which could include discharge. Be sure to keep proper documentation that is signed by the employee.

Q: One of our employees recently lost her paycheck, which required us to issue a stop payment. Can we deduct the bank fee from her next check?

A: Probably not. Taking even small deductions out of an employee’s paycheck is always risky and can open the door not only to claims for unpaid wages and steep penalties from the Labor Commissioner, but also to expensive litigation. The basic rule is that you can only make a deduction for losses resulting from an employee’s gross negligence or willful or dishonest act. It’s unlikely that misplacing a paycheck would qualify. By the same token, you usually can’t take a wage setoff when cash comes up short or an employee breaks equipment. In most cases, it’s best not to make a deduction unless you have well-documented proof that the employee intentionally did something wrong.

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Human Resources Tips for Dental Practices is provided by Tim Twigg and Rebecca Crane of Bent Ericksen & Associates. Tim Twigg is president and Rebecca Crane is a human resource compliance consultant with Bent Ericksen & Associates. For 30 years, the company has been a leading authority in human resource and personnel issues, helping dentists deal successfully with the ever-changing and complex labor laws. To receive a complimentary copy of the company’s quarterly newsletter or to learn more about its services, call (800) 679-2760 or visit