O.C. Dental Lab Agrees to Settle Overtime Case
In one of Southern California’s largest overtime pay cases, Glidewell Dental Ceramics Inc. has agreed to pay $400,000 to more than 300 employees who claimed they had been denied back pay.
The case, brought in July by federal labor officials, alleged that Glidewell owed nearly $1.5 million in back pay to their employees, most of them dental technicians who are paid by the piece.
The company, one of the largest dental laboratories in the nation, has denied the suit’s allegations and said that the settlement is not an admission of guilt.
“Litigation is too expensive. We’d rather pay the workers than the lawyers,” said Keith Allred, a spokesman for Glidewell.
According to the judgment, which was filed recently in U.S. District Court in Santa Ana, Glidewell must pay the Labor Department $400,000 by Feb. 1. The claims will then be reviewed, and the money is expected to be allocated to more than 300 employees, according to a Labor Department official.
But one former worker listed on the lawsuit who was contacted Monday said he thought the settlement was too small, considering the number of hours of overtime employees worked during the time of the lawsuit, from October 1993 to the present.
“We used to do a lot more than that,” said Luis Romero of Anaheim, who used to work as a dental technician for the company. “For the money we used to make that’s nothing, that’s a joke.” Romero and three other former Glidewell employees now work for a competing dental laboratory.
Because the company’s time cards were called into question, Allred said it also has agreed to install time clocks at the plant. In the future, employees must be paid time and a half for work over 40 hours per week.
Glidewell manufactures dentures, crowns, bridges and other oral appliances out of ceramic and metal material for dentists around the country. The average weekly pay for technicians is $500 to $600, although company officials say some employees make more than $1,000 a week.
The suit raised questions about the status of dental technicians nationwide, many of whom are compensated in the same way Glidewell paid its employees.
The company said that it considers them “professionals” who work flexible hours and take long breaks and thinks they should be classified as exempt from wage and hour laws. Labor Department officials say because their work involves manual labor and is paid for by the piece, it is subject to federal laws.
The suit was filed in July after federal officials launched an investigation of the company that included reviewing time cards and talking to employees.
The government had 20 sources who confirmed the company’s overtime violations, according to William C. Buhl, regional administrator of the Labor Department’s Employment Standards Administration.
Also, the company’s record-keeping was found to be inadequate. Still, almost half of the employees listed on the original complaint signed a statement saying that they had not worked overtime.
Glidewell is owned by James Glidewell of Newport Beach, who started the company with one employee in 1970. Aided by a Small Business Administration loan in 1993, the company has almost doubled in size to 600 employees between its main Newport Beach plant and small satellite facilities in Riverside and Lake Havasu City, Ariz.
Sales at the firm are expected to exceed the $37-million mark this year.