Many hospitals and other health care providers are being scrutinized for pay practices whereby employees are required to work through unpaid lunch breaks and before and after their scheduled shifts.
In some instances, computerized payroll systems make automatic 30 minute deductions, with the assumption that the employee has taken a meal break, regardless of work-related interruptions in the break or if the break was cut short. Although many of these employers have procedures for employees to request pay for a missed break, the employers know that employees will typically not make such a request, either because they will forget in the midst of a hectic day, or because, in practice, management discourages such requests.
Additionally, many employees of hospitals and other health care providers are required to work prior to and after a scheduled shift without being paid for such “off the clock” time. The most common type of such pre-shift and post-shift work involves attending meetings to discuss the status and needs of patients for the upcoming shift.
Most nurses, certified nursing assistants, and other patient-directed health care workers are driven to put the needs of their patients above all else to assure that their patients are taken care of properly. Unfortunately, many employers unlawfully take advantage of such a conscientious attitude by their employees by not paying them for missed and interrupted unpaid breaks and for pre-shift and post-shift meetings. The law, however, entitles employees to be compensated for such time spent predominantly for the benefit of their employer.
The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) does not require that an employer provide meal and rest breaks. “Bona fide” meal periods are generally not considered work time for which an employee is entitled to be paid. Typically, such “bona fide” meal periods must last at least 30 minutes. In fact, regulations of the United States Department of Labor provide that for purposes of overtime requirements, an employee must be relieved of work duties for an uninterrupted period of at least 20 minutes for the break to lawfully constitute unpaid time. Otherwise, the employee is not able to use that time predominantly for his or her benefit, and the break period is compensable under federal and/or state law.
The attorneys of Brady & Associates work to help recover unpaid wages for health care industry employees. You may be entitled to substantial back wages if you are or have been employed by a health care provider and you have not been paid for missed meal or rest breaks or for pre-shift or post-shift meetings.