Fair Labor Standards Act and Potential Issues in Dental Offices

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is a federal employment law that has been around for nearly 75 years. Although the law has been around for a long time, there are still many aspects that are unclear to many employers and employees alike including those in the dental field.

One of the most basic aspects of the law requires that any non-exempt employees to be paid at least the minimum wage for any hours that they work and that they be paid 1.5 times their regular pay rate for any hour worked over 40 hours in a workweek. Although this may seem like an easy determination, many employers have a difficult time determining who exactly is eligible for overtime and who is exempt.

Although the law provides guidelines as to the types of employees that are exempt, an employee’s actual job duties determine whether he or she is indeed exempt. Whether deliberately or inadvertently, many employers have made the mistake of misclassifying or labeling certain employees as exempt under the FLSA. Employers may do this to avoid having to pay overtime. Employers may title a job position a certain way or highlight certain job descriptions. However, these factors are irrelevant.

In the dental field, there is some debate as to whether a dental hygienist should be exempt under the FLSA statute. A number of employers have considered dental hygienist as falling under the statute’s “professional” exemption. However, there are a number of stipulations that the hygienist must meet before falling under this “professional” exemption. Only those hygienists who have completed a four year academic study in an accredited school may qualify for this exemption. Similar to other “white collar exemptions,” the hygienist would also have to be paid by salary and receive at least $455 each week for the exemption to apply.

Another potential mistake made by employers is the miscalculation of overtime pay for any employees who are not considered to be exempt under FLSA. Although many of the employees that do receive overtime payment are paid hourly, the FLSA does not require the employees to be paid hourly in order to be eligible for overtime. Many employers wrongly assume that any overtime paid must be paid at a rate that is 1.5 times an employee’s hourly rate. However, the overtime rate should be paid at 1.5 times the employee’s regular rate. This regular rate of pay includes all payment for the employment including any commissions, incentive pay, and even some bonuses. In calculating the amount of overtime pay, employers should not leave out any payment included in that calculation.

If you are in the dental field or any other field and you have questions relating to the FLSA, contact one of our Tennessee employment law attorneys. We have employment law attorneys that cover the entire state of Tennessee. At The Higgins Firm, we would be happy to answer any questions that you may have relating to minimum wage or overtime payments.

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