Anyone who has worked in a busy hospital knows just how hectic things can get. As I write this post at 1:15 in the afternoon on a Saturday, my good friend (an anesthesiologist) is still at work at a local hospital. He has been there since 7:00 pm last night. Sometimes you get downtime and sometimes you work 12+ hours without a break. Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), workers are not entitled to get breaks* but if you provide a meal break to an employee they are entitled to get paid if they must work through it. (*Nursing moms are entitled to breaks.)
A Dallas, Texas nurse has filed an FLSA collective action case (class action) claiming that he and hundreds of nurses at 6 Dallas area hospitals were docked for meal breaks even if they had to work through those meal periods. Robert Straka, a nurse at Methodist Dallas Medical Center, claims that nurses there often can’t leave their workstation and often miss their allowed 30 minute meal.
As noted above, federal law does not require meal breaks, although some states do. Methodist Dallas Medical Center follows a practice common to many hospitals. Staff are allowed to take a 30 minute meal break on their shift. The hospital doesn’t require nurses to clock out but instead assumes that sometime during their shift each staff member will find 30 minutes to enjoy a break.
Although the concept seems fine, life in a busy hospital often means no breaks. Straka claims that even if he did get a break, he couldn’t leave, remained responsible for patients and was frequently interrupted.
Absent a state law that provides additional rights, workers charged for meal breaks not worked can generally make a claim for any unpaid time that has accrued over the prior 24 months. If the court finds the employer’s actions were “willful,” the look back can be extended to 36 months.
Healthcare workers improperly denied overtime (work in excess of 40 hours during a 7 day pay period) are entitled to double damages and legal fees. The same remedies apply for workers who work through but aren’t paid for meal breaks.
Because the employer must pay legal fees, it isn’t necessary to advance us any money for your case. In fact, we only get paid if we win your case and collect money.
Need more information? Contact attorney Katherine Holiday at or by telephone at (414) 258-2375. All inquiries are kept strictly confidential. You can also visit our FLSA information page.
Healthcare workers’ jobs are already stressful enough. If you aren’t getting properly paid, let us shoulder that stress.
MahanyLaw – America’s Class Action FLSA and Wage Theft Lawyers