U.S. Department of Labor Investigation Results in Tennessee Dental Practice Paying $50,000 in Back Wages and Liquidated Damages
NASHVILLE, TN – After an investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD), the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee has ordered Smiley Dental Associates Inc. – a dental practice based in Nashville, Tennessee – to pay $50,000 in back wages and liquidated damages to 10 employees, for violations of minimum wage, overtime, and recordkeeping provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).
WHD investigators found Drs. Kim and George Wesley Smiley – owners of Smiley Dental Associates Inc. - and George Wesley Smiley, doing business as Smiley Tooth Spa Inc. – committed numerous violations of federal law. WHD determined that the employer:
- Violated the federal minimum wage requirements by requiring candidates for hire to perform a “working interview” to conclude their application but failed to pay the individuals for those hours worked.
- Failed to pay registered dental assistants, hygienists, and front-desk personnel time-and-one-half for hours worked over 40 in a workweek, resulting in an overtime violation.
- Authorized their accountant to falsify and alter time and payroll records to make it appear that the employer was paying proper overtime for all hours worked.
- Periodically required employees to attend training during their scheduled lunch breaks without paying them for that time.
- Failed to display mandatory Wage and Hour posters in the workplace.
“Employers are responsible for ensuring that all their employees receive the wages they have legally earned for all the hours they have worked,” said Wage and Hour Division District Director Nettie Lewis, in Nashville. “The outcome of this investigation should remind all employers to review their pay practices to confirm that workers are being paid as the law requires. We encourage all employers to make use of the many tools we offer to explain their responsibilities and to help them avoid violations.”
The Department’s Office of the Solicitor filed a permanent injunction and order against the dental practices and their owners to remedy the violations found in the current investigation. On November 21, 2018, Kim and George Wesley Smiley settled with the Department and the court approved the injunction and order. In addition to ordering the employer to pay back wages and damages, the court permanently enjoined both entities and their owners from committing future FLSA violations.
For more information about the FLSA and other laws enforced by the Wage and Hour Division, contact the toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243). Employers who discover overtime or minimum wage violations may self-report and resolve those violations without litigation through the PAID program. Information is also available at https://www.dol.gov/whd.