Nursing overtime violations are on the rise. Some overtime lawsuits for nurses have been based upon missed meal breaks. Other nurses overtime lawsuits received settlements for work before and after shifts. Across the US, millions of dollars in settlements have been paid out for nurses wage and hour lawsuits .
Many hospitals and residential health care, assisted living and group homes do not pay proper overtime to nurses and other employees. Health care industry pay practices are the target of 250 new Labor Department wage-and-hour investigators (an increase of one-third). Fewer than 36 percent of employers investigated in New York alone were in compliance with federal overtime law.
What Classifies As Overtime For Nurses?
The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires a nurse payment of one-and-a-half times their regular rate of pay for any overtime hours worked in excess of 40 each week. WageAdvocates.com states that having the FLSA affords a lot of U.S. employees a number of protections, which entitles many to a federal minimum wage and fair overtime pay.
Five Common Overtime Violations Nurses Experience
- Unpaid “breaks” that were interrupted by work duties
Nurses are entitled to a minimum break of 20 minutes when their daily working time is more than six hours. That 20 minutes must at least…
- be uninterrupted
- be taken away from the work station
- be during working time—not at the start or end of the day
- not overlap with other rest or break time
The regulations are silent on whether a rest break is paid time but if clear guidance has been given by your employer regarding this, they must adhere to their own regulations or risk committing an overtime violation of their nursing staff. The rest breaks may change depending on the state as well.
- Misclassifying nurses as “professionals”
What happens when nurses get mislabeled as independent contractors? They suddenly get thrown outside of the system that was created to protect hard working nurses, giving employers free rein of control over how many hours are worked with unpaid breaks. Common nursing overtime violations become fair game with just that misclassification, but it in no way makes this a best (or even ethical) practice for hospitals and clinics.
- Failing to count work performed before or after a shift
Hospitals that have a strict punch-in and punch-out policy but make nurses start early or stay late despite their recorded hours are probably in violation of nurse overtime regulations. Not only that, but they are risking some very serious problems that can occur when a nurse is performing duties but is recorded as having “gone home”. It’s the kind of mix-up that can really cause trouble if those records ever need to be consulted for a legal matter. If a nurse cannot finish his or her patient care and documentation (charting) during the shift hours, then overtime should be allowed, recorded and paid. If the instances of overtime re-occur with the same individual, then it is the workload that must be assessed.
- Not paying nurses who are on call
A nurse on call can’t leave town or make plans, so shouldn’t she be compensated for the time they spend on call? Generally, the mandatory hours that a nurse must be available are not eligible for pay because no actual work is being done for the employer during that time. However, there are instances where nurses are required to be available and in proximity of the hospital, which means they cannot use the time effectively for his or her own purpose, like taking care of the kids or getting the car fixed. For those times, employees must be upfront of their expectations of the nurse (in terms of how long and how close they must remain near the hospital or clinic premises) and the nurse must be paid in compliance with the Fair Labor Standards Act.
- Telling nurses they can’t have overtime
Probably one of the biggest employment laws broken these days is telling nurses they are not eligible for overtime. That is only true for nurses that are exempt from the Fair Labor Act. Most non-registered nurses are non-exempt and are not only eligible for overtime but they must get paid time and a half for it. Whether or not a nurse is non-exempt from the Fair Labor Act depends on factors like education, licensing, duties and pay rates.