At all hours of the day and night, America’s nurses bring skill, compassion, and commitment to the care they provide millions of patients. Hospitals and other health care facilities that employ nurses know how hard they work and how indispensable nurses are to their operations and patients’ well-being. But that doesn’t mean employers won’t try to take advantage of nurses’ tireless and dedicated efforts. In fact, nurses, orderlies, and healthcare aides often get shortchanged out of wages and overtime pay they earned and that the law requires their employers to provide.
Specifically, employers may try to save money by not paying nurses for work activities that they deem to be “off-the-clock” but are actually essential – and compensable – parts of a nurse’s workday. This is unfair and a violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).
Wage and Overtime Pay Laws Apply to Hospitals and Other Health Care Facilities
The FSLA is the federal law that imposes minimum wage, overtime pay, and other requirements on “covered employers.” Section 3(s)(1)(B) of the FLSA includes hospitals and other facilities “primarily engaged in the care of the sick, the aged, or the mentally ill” as covered employers. This includes residential care establishments, skilled nursing facilities, nursing homes, hospice care facilities, assisted living facilities, residential care facilities, and intermediate care facilities.
Because the FLSA covers them, these institutions must pay non-exempt nurses either the federal minimum wage or their state’s minimum wage, whichever is higher. Additionally, employers must pay nurses one and one-half times their regular wage for all hours worked over 40 in any given workweek.
How Employers Cheat Nurses Out of Wages and Overtime
Nonexempt nurses must be paid for all “hours worked” in a workweek, which generally includes all time an employee must be on duty, on the employer’s premises, or at any other designated workplace.
But many employers improperly limit what they consider to be “hours worked” by excluding certain work-related tasks from their calculation of those hours. By doing so, an employer can keep a nurse’s hours worked under 40 each week and avoid having to pay higher overtime wages.
Here are the top five ways hospitals and other health care institutions take advantage of nurses by classifying compensable activities as “off-the-clock”:
- Not paying for travel time between work sites. While commuting to and from home is not compensable, nurses must be paid for the time they spend traveling between facilities where they will be working.
- Not paying for training, classes, or seminars. Nurses must be paid for the time spent in training if such events are mandatory (either officially or as a practical matter), related to the nurse’s job, and held during normal working hours.
- Not paying for time spent on-call. If an employer requires a nurse to be “on-call” such that he or she must remain at or near the employer’s facility, is required to carry a cellphone or beeper, and “cannot use the time effectively for his or her own purpose,” the employer must pay for that time spent “on-call.”
- Powering on and off. Starting up computers, signing on to applications and downloading work information or directions at the beginning of the workday and powering down computers and applications at the end of the workday are compensable activities.
- Catching up on email and charting. Nurses who read or send work-related emails, or who complete patient charting, before and after their shifts should be paid for that time.
Nurses: Get Paid What You’re Owed. Contact the Overtime Pay Attorneys for a Free Consultation.
Nurses deserve our utmost respect and appreciation. They also deserve to be paid for all that they do. If you are a nurse and suspect that your employer is cheating you out of earned wages, contact an experienced overtime pay lawyer today.