Nurses – Unpaid Meal Breaks

Nurses and other hospital employees who are paid by the hour often have their meal breaks automatically deducted from their time clock entries.  As an example, such an employee may clock in at 7:00 a.m. and clock out at 7:00 p.m.  Instead of having a 12-hour day, the employer often automatically deducts 30 or 60 minutes from this time entry for a meal break.  However, under the law, a meal break must be completely uninterrupted to be unpaid.  As is the case with most health care workers, such employees rarely get this time uninterrupted due to patient and staff demands.  If these breaks are interrupted in any fashion, under the law, the employee is to be paid for the entire meal period that was automatically deducted.  In turn, this causes such employees to be denied wages and overtime.

Automatic deductions for meal breaks is bad practice for most employers.  Our firm recently succeeded in obtaining a $3.6 million settlement for health care workers at the University of Missouri Health Care System: Hunsley, et al. v. Curators of the University of Missouri.

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