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Troubleshooter: Is dentist harassing staff by asking them to watch hours of consulting videos?

June 14, 2018
This dental staff is not happy with their dentist's request to watch hours of consulting videos. "She's the one who signed up for this, not us," they agree. What can they do?

QUESTION: My dentist boss has recently become very involved with a well-known continuing education company. The staff is bombarded with emails to our personal accounts three or more times each day telling us we have to watch various educational videos. The emails are so frequent we feel like it’s harassment.

My boss has said that watching the videos is mandatory. The videos range from three minutes to hours long. She has user names and login accounts for all the staff members and can tell whether or not we watch the videos. She gets angry if we don’t watch them the same day she sends them to us. We work 11-hour days so we barely have time for our families as it is when we get home. We don’t have time to constantly watch hours of videos. I know she’s excited but she signed up for this, not us! Should we legally be compensated when we spend our time doing something that she is stating is mandatory for work? The staff feels like it’s illegal to basically bring our work home with us off the clock.

ANSWER FROM REBECCA BOARTFIELD, HR expert with Bent Ericksen & Associates:
It's too bad this new program that your employer is excited about is not working for you also. I strongly recommend speaking with your employer about your concerns in an attempt to get this sorted out before it becomes a much bigger problem.

In your question, you mention that this feels like harassment to you. Please understand that this is most assuredly not harassment. While it may bother you that she is sending you so much information, it does not constitute illegal harassment. I recommend you refrain from using this kind of loaded verbiage if you speak with your employer about your concerns.

As for payment, yes, your employer is required to pay for all work that is performed by you, whether in the office or at home. Therefore, watching these educational videos should be paid time. In addition, this time spent watching videos should be added to your time for the week (or day if you're in California), and if you work overtime, it should be paid as well.

Don't be shy! If YOU have a tough issue in your dental office that you would like addressed, send it to [email protected] for the experts to answer. Remember, you'll be helping others who share the same issue. All inquiries will be answered anonymously here on DIQ.

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