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How do you manage exempt and nonexempt employee hours?

By Shannon Geis
June 30, 2016
Body of Knowledge Domain(s):

We’ve all had to work late or on weekends at some point or another, but should that be the norm in your practice? With the recent changes to the guidelines for which employees are exempt or nonexempt from overtime payment by the Department of Labor, you might want to take another look at your policies. (MGMA member Tom Ealey, CPA, professor, Alma College, Alma, Mich., discusses what these policies might mean for you.)

In a recent MGMA Member Community thread, one MGMA member asked what to do about a new office manager who believes she should be exempt from working any evening or Saturday hours.

“Work ethic is something that needs to be discussed. Whenever I appoint a manager /supervisor, I make it clear that hours are a guideline and are definitely not 9-to-5 Monday through Friday but a commitment to do a job. Maybe the person doesn’t want the responsibility?” Paul I. Berkley, FACMPE, MGMA member, administrator and chief executive officer, Healthcare Associates in Medicine, P.C., Staten Island, N.Y., responded.

“My managers routinely work more than a 40-hour work week and understand their role to supervise the department and not to simply show up a prescribed number of hours,” he continued.

But other members questioned whether exempt employees working overtime should be standard practice.

“A large number of studies in recent years have clearly proven that it ain’t about how many hours you or your employees work; it’s about quality and productivity. And the highest of both comes from employees who are given specific hours; encouraged (forced for my staff) to take breaks and paid time off; are given solid training; and are provided with the best tools, resources and support available. If you need staff for nights and weekends, arrange their schedules accordingly,” Retha Reeves, MGMA member, consulting administrator, Cardiology Consultants of Houston PLLC.

Member Mark Meisel, MBA, agreed. “If you’re so busy you can’t get it all done, it’s time to grow your staff. Learn to delegate. Your practice will be better off, and so will you,” wrote the vice president and chief operating officer, Anesthesia Associates of Kansas City PC, Overland Park, Kan.

“What I’ve learned is to be as efficient as I can at work. Evenings? Weekends? 3:00 a.m. trips because the alarm goes off? Yes, I’ve done them all. But those should be the exception that proves the rule that an administrator can work ‘normal’ hours,” says Ann Crutchfield, MS, MGMA member, consultant, Practice Results, Safety Harbor, Fla.

Time Clock policies

On the other end of the spectrum, what should an administrator do about nonexempt employees who don’t clock in or out on time? This topic was the source of another recent, lively discussion on the MGMA Member Community, when a member asked about others’ policies.

“I charge a per missed punch penalty of 10 minutes. Employees are allowed one missed punch per week. Then we take the time they ‘say’ they clocked in/out and subtract 10 minutes of pay. Ever notice that when they miss [punching in], they were exactly on time? I won’t say it has helped them remember, but it is a penalty,” answered one anonymous MGMA member.

You might want to check with legal counsel before you institute such policy. Many states have labor laws that don’t allow withholding pay in this manner. And according to the Department of Labor, “minor differences between the clock records and actual hours worked cannot ordinarily be avoided since all employees cannot clock in or out at precisely the same time. Major discrepancies should be discouraged, however, since doubt is raised as to the accuracy of the record of actual hours worked.”

“While we have to pay employees for time worked, disciplinary measures absolutely can and should be employed. The specific disciplinary measures vary among the practices, but all start those measures early on,” wrote Reeves.

Have you reconsidered any of your policies for exempt or nonexempt employees recently? We’d love to hear about it. Send us a message at connection@mgma.org. And check out the full discussions for each of these issues and more on the MGMA Member Community.

Shannon Geis, Staff writer/editor, MGMA

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