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Dental Hygienist Forced To Work Off The Clock: What To Do as an Hourly Employee

Armen Hareyan's picture
Dental Hygienist

For those dental hygienists that have to get off the clock when there's no patient, how do you find time to do other things that the office wants you to do when you always have to get off the clock? I mean do they expect for us to work off the clock? Can your employer make you or force you to work without pay?


This morning I read an interesting discussion on Dental Peeps Facebook group where dentists and dental office workers discuss various topics regarding the dental work environment. The topic of working off the clock and how to handle it came up and I summarize the conversation here for eMaxHealth readers who may be in similar situations.

How To Handle Off The Clock Work Requests

If you are forced to work off the clock it doesn't seem to be the best office that you can work for. It would be a good idea to talk to your doctor about wanting to take care of certain things before clocking out. The fair thing to do would be to ask for a two-tier pay - one when you are actually with a patient and two (a lower pay) when you are doing office stuff.

Alternatively, if the doctor asks you to do something after you clocked out all you need to do is clock yourself in again. If you are asked to do extra work, I would say "sure, let me clock in again and go from there."

Some Human Resources managers say that it's not legal for the office to require you to stay on the premises and clock out. If you are leaving the office that is one thing, but to require you to stay at the office and clock out is not legal. If something happens who is going to be liable?

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Engaged to Wait For Patients

Besides, clocking out and staying in the office to work is against the Fair Labor Act. The time between patients in doctors' office is considered “waiting time”. You should remind your doctor of this, and that you are paid per hour and not per patient.

Your employer cannot make you work without pay. No one should be forced to work off the clock.

It’s called "engaged to wait." You get paid while waiting between patients. That's part of the job of a Registered Dental Hygienist. You don’t clock out. That being said, make it worth their while by offering to help in the lab area or ask the doctor how you can help in different ways. Sharpening instruments for an hour or sitting around looking at magazines will not help to create a happy team mentality. Good helping attitudes are the key in any office including doctoral offices.

Your doctor's office can’t expect you to work off the clock. Do what you can at the pace that you can and the best you can. For every time you are asked to clock out, I would suggest making a note of this. However, the ultimate solution to this would be to look for another office if this keeps happening. Most dental hygienists who have worked in dental offices for years never recall an employer requesting them to clock out when there are no patients.

For future interviews, you may want to ask your employer if he or she has the hygienist clock out when there are no patients. If yes, I wouldn't accept the work in that dental office.

How is the situation in your office? Please, share your tips in the comments section below for discussion. Also, see What Should You Know About Your Dental Hygienist and 8 Health Effects of Poor Dental Hygiene that Extend Beyond Your Mouth.