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A Working Interview? You’d Better Pay Me

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Recently, the United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee approved a permanent injunction and order filed by the United States Department of Labor’s (“DOL”) Office of the Solicitor against a dental practice based in Nashville. In so doing, the Court ordered the practice 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”) and permanently enjoined it from committing future violations.

Among the run-of-the-mill violations that were found in the DOL’s Wage and Hour Division’s (“WHD”) investigation – including failing to pay employees for time-and-one-half for hours worked over 40 in a workweek and failing to pay employees for a lunch break spent attending training – the WHD investigators also determined that the practice violated minimum wage provisions when it required job applicants to perform a “working interview” as part of their application, but failed to pay them for their time “worked” during that interview. For those unsure, a working interview consists of an applicant performing the duties of his or her desired position, typically over a period of multiple hours, while the employer assesses the work performed.

Does this mean that employers are always required to pay job applicants when they interview? Certainly not. However, the case serves as a reminder that employers should pay individuals (at least minimum wage) for all hours worked – even if those hours occur during an interview and even if the individual is a job applicant and not yet an employee.