Perhaps surprisingly, the suit is not about misclassifying workers who are protected by overtime laws as professional or managerial employees. Overtime pay lawsuits so often focus on whether an employee is “exempt” or not. Instead, this case shines a light on corporate decisions that encourage managers to act in ways that deprive workers of legal protection. It’s a dirty, grubby, fact-specific argument about real life.
Under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, most nurses would not be eligible for overtime because of the advanced training and scientific knowledge the profession requires. California labor law is different, however. Other than student nurses, most California nurses are eligible for overtime pay, even when they also perform some managerial and administrative functions.
But neither federal nor state law quite captures the lived experience of a working nurse. If you want a picture of life in the trenches, read the blogs. Nurses turn to other nurses for real advice, and there are plenty of stories about being overscheduled, overworked, tired and underpaid.
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The class the plaintiff seeks to represent includes employees previously employed by CareMeridian or Mentor during the four years prior to the date of the complaint. The significance of the overtime pay lawsuit extends even beyond the class, however.
A “win” could help establish a California precedent that will bring relief to well-intentioned employees who are pushed into putting aside their own rights to wage protection for the good of the vulnerable people they serve. A fresh and focused public servant, whether a nurse or someone else, could be good for all of us someday.