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Nurses Overtime

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Although there is a professional exemption for California overtime wages, registered nurses are non-exempt employees--which means overtime rules apply to them–unless they meet requirements of the white-collar exemption. Wage and hour attorneys believe that nurses can be subject to a variety of labor law violations. With few exceptions, to be exempt you must perform exempt job duties.

While some professions are exempt from mandatory overtime pay, California law specifically states the exemption doesn’t apply to nurses unless they are midwives, anesthetists, or certified nurse practitioners. If you are not one of these types of advanced practice nurses, you are likely entitled to overtime.

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Exempt Nurse Job Duties

The FLSA classifies as exempt the job duties of the traditional "learned professions," including registered nurses (but not LPNs). It also says that job duties are exempt executive job duties if the employee:
  • Regularly supervises two or more other employees, and also
  • Has management as the primary duty of the position, and also
  • Has some genuine input in the job status of other employees (such as hiring, firing, promotions, or assignments).
  • Exempt status is determined by an employee's actual work activities. It does require, however, that employers pay non-exempt employees overtime pay.
  • As of January 2021, the minimum salary requirement for an employee to be exempt under the white-collar exemption is $54,080 (if the employer employs less than 26 workers).

California Registered Nurses

nurses_overtimeIn 2021, registered nurses (RNs) in California earn more than in any other state at an average of $102,700, which is $8,560 monthly or $49.37 hourly. This figure can fluctuate based on your city of residence, your employer, and your overall nursing experience.
 

Nurses Meal and Rest Breaks

All employees in California, including nurses, are entitled to meal and rest breaks. You are entitled to a paid 10 minute rest break for every 4 hours and a 30 minute unpaid meal break for every 5 hours that you work.
One exception for nurses is that if you work more than an 8 hour shift, you may waive your right to a second meal break if (1) a written agreement exists that provides that one of the meal breaks is waived and (2) the written agreement may be revoked by the employee with 1 days notice. This frequently comes up for nurses who work 12 hours shifts. If they have a written agreement, then they do not have to take their second meal break.

Uniforms

Any uniforms required by the employer, such as a specific uniform that is used only at their hospital or has a distinctive color or logo, must be paid for by the employer. However, clothing (such as “scrubs”) that is not distinctive to one employer but can be used generally in the industry need not be paid for by the employer.

Travel nurse wage packages vary because in addition to a salary or hourly rate, travel nursing contracts usually provide tax-free stipends, bonuses, and “per diems” for food and housing. Although travel nurses may be employed by a staffing company based in another state, they must be paid in accordance with California laws when they are stationed in the state, including the calculation of overtime wages.

Nursing professionals who are denied overtime wages, meal breaks, and other benefits may be owed these benefits under California labor law.

Nurses Donning and Doffing

The Supreme Court has ruled that employees should be paid for time employees spend involved in certain activities, if those activities are essential to the work being done. The courts also consider whether the employer or the employee benefits from the required safety gear. Although employees benefit from safety gear by being protected from job-related hazards, employers also benefit by paying less in employee sick time in the event employees are injured on the job.

Despite such ruling, employers can argue that their employee isn’t actually working. On the other hand, the employee claims--in many donning and doffing lawsuits—that any article of clothing (not only uniforms) or safety gear the employer must provide and has mandated in order for the employee to perform the job should be compensated by the employer. This means that time spent dressing and undressing should be on-the-clock.

Like other employment violations, donning and doffing is a wage and hour claim, like any off-the-clock work where the employee is expected to perform tasks before starting a shift and/or clocking out for the day. Like missed meal and rest periods, this task can add several minutes or more (think how long it takes to don a hazmat – hazardous materials—suit) a day.

There may also be a question of how much control the employee has in the circumstances surrounding donning and doffing. If employees are required to leave the safety gear at work, and are therefore unable to fully prepare for work while at home, they may be eligible for compensation.

PPE during COVID-19

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, state and federal safety and health guidelines call for extensive use of personal protective equipment (PPE) in the workplace. Certain employers should scrutinize their policies on donning and doffing.

Whether workers are entitled to compensation for time spent donning and doffing PPE has been subjected to litigation for years. As well, the federal standards may differ from state standards. Employees who regularly had to wear PPE and other health and safety equipment are now wearing new and additional types of equipment. Similarly, employees who never wore any safety equipment are now wearing such equipment.

Nurse Overtime Lawsuits

In October 2020 three registered nurses filed a collective action lawsuit against the San Francisco Department of Public Health, accusing the department of violating federal labor laws. The dual-status nurses, those who work both per diem shifts and civil servant appointed positions, are not getting paid overtime when they exceed 80 hours in a pay period. The overtime hours are instead classified as per diem hours, resulting in workers not getting overtime pay, according to the San Francisco Examiner.

Many employers believe the "learned professional" exemption to the FLSA overtime and minimum requirements automatically applies, and that they won't have to pay overtime. In Ruggles v. WellPoint, Inc., however, WellPoint's call center nurses claim in a nurses overtime lawsuit that WellPoint's practice of paying them a salary and not overtime pay is a violation of the FLSA. With the lawsuit still pending, it is likely that the court will have to reexamine what it takes to be an RN working in managed care and whether RNs assigned to nontraditional medical services are misclassified.

Nurses can be subjected to a variety of labor law violations and nurse overtime lawsuits are on the rise. Unfortunately, nurses seldom file an overtime claim because they fear retaliation and that such a complaint will reflect poorly upon them. This results in many employers and staffing agencies continually violating overtime and labor law regulations and making huge profits. If you and your co-workers want to end these violations, you should seek legal help.
 

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NURSES OVERTIME LEGAL ARTICLES AND INTERVIEWS

Arkansas Supreme Court Affirms Class-Action Status in Nursing Overtime Lawsuit
Arkansas Supreme Court Affirms Class-Action Status in Nursing Overtime Lawsuit
July 17, 2015
Little Rock, AR Nurses remain the unsung heroes of medicine, regardless of jurisdiction. Thus, it appears patently unfair and unjust when nurses accuse their employers of stiffing them from overtime for work performed outside of their shifts, and when working through meal breaks. A Nursing Overtime Lawsuit seeking class-action status in Arkansas will go ahead after the state’s Supreme Court upheld a lower court’s ruling that class-action status is warranted.
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Nurses Fight for Overtime Pay
Nurses Fight for Overtime Pay
December 28, 2012
Seattle, WA When it comes to overtime pay for nurses, people tend to think that after eight hours of work, the nurses receive their overtime pay. But as nursing overtime lawsuits show, the issue is not as cut-and-dried as that. For example, nurses are scheduled to take certain rest breaks but often work through those breaks, without pay. That adds extra hours of work to a day, without extra compensation.
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Nurses Win Long Battle Over Nurses' Overtime For Missed Breaks
Nurses Win Long Battle Over Nurses' Overtime For Missed Breaks
November 4, 2012
Olympia, WA While front-line service workers are often represented by unions and therefore can take advantage of various perks and workplace advantages entrenched in a contract to uphold safety on the job, circumstances may not permit a scheduled lunch break, or rest period. There is no more a truism here, than with the nursing profession, when the needs of a patient or a medical emergency do not wait until the end of a coffee break. The issue: when a rest period is missed to which the nurse is entitled, should that individual be paid nurse's overtime?
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READER COMMENTS

Posted by

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i am a cma that work three full jobs friday are hard for me i work 24 hours i asked my job to let me off they say we dont have the staff to cover it what should i do .

Posted by

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I am running into the same problem, I am an RN for a home health company and am prn but work full time hours plus. I get no pay for drive time, extra time spent charting etc. no incentive, no bonus no raise in 5 years. I've been there longer than any other RN. Can we find a way to change this so we aren't working for free?

Posted by

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I am a HOSPICE RN who is salaried. We work many days 8 hours in the field and then spend 2 to 3 hours charting at night. We are on call and are paid a very small incentive. When we are called out we get a set fee for the visit no matter how many miles we drive or how much time it takes to get there plus the visit could be 30 minutes to 3 hours according to patient needs. When We are on call on the weekends we ate on call for 48 hours in a row. We get compensated the same rates per visit after hours and weekends. This rate is the same rate they pay a PRN nurse during the day.sometimes we work 50 hours in a week then on call at night and weekends. There is no premium pay. Do we have ANY RECOURSE other than quitting.

Posted by

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I work as a registered nurse, we have an opposite problem where we work. We are a surgical unit and are slow so the company instituted a low census policy. They told us we would be aggressively fought if we tried to file unemployment and if we needed hours we could go work in another facility they own. Problem is these facilities are sometimes 90 min to 2 hours away. We have no training or inadequate training in these facilities. Some are small hospitals and we have been told we could staff those. My issue with all of this, if I work a 12 hour shift Nf am driving 90 min to 2 hrs plus an hour to shower before I go that is less than 8 hours to sleep much less than spend time with our children. Also most of us have been orthopedic nurses since we graduated nursing school, now we con be sent where ever. I mean would you want an orthopedic surgery doing brain surgery on you? What are our rights and options.

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I work in a hospital doing acute dialysis. I currently get paid per treatment. They are changing our pay to hourly which will decrease my salary to about half what I currently make. G=For the past 11 years I have been paid per treatment and did not receive holiday pay or any incentives for being called in. Am I entitled to any back pay?

Posted by

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I am an RN who works 12 hour shifts. Recently our hospital changed our "on call" status to. "Flex" stairs when the hospital is over staffed. Before the new "flex" we would be put on call and paid an on call rate, if we had to be called in then we would be paid time and a half for the hours worked. Now that we are being "flexed" we get a call in the early am and are told we are flexed until 11 but will be called by 9 if they do not need us. We do not get paid for the hours "flexed" unless we use our paid time off and when and if we get called in our pay is our base rate. Is this legal? I feel like just because the wording changed we are no longer getting compensated appropriately for essentially being on-call.

Posted by

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I work for a company that I travel many miles a day, and visit pt, about 4 to 5 pt a day each pt is about 35 to 1 hour apart depending on the day, that's not including the prn visits, plus they want us to chart while we are at the pt's home, by the time we get finish with the day, it's over 8 hours, and that's not charting in the home or taking a lunch, but we are told when time sheets go in, we need to take out 30 minutes or the company will take it anyway, and we spend most of our nights charting at home to try and keep up. C. L. L.

Posted by

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Is it mandatory for "hourly" nurses to work holidays? I am not part time or full time

Posted by

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I am a prn nurse for hospice in Ky. I pick up days on the weekends. They "bubble" me in just to have the third person if they need me. It is a 15 bed facility, I can only work if there are 13 patient's. I'm on-call for the full 12 hours, without any pay. is this legal? Can they mandate you to work an extra shift?

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I work at an assisted living home in MN. We have been having chronic open shifts left on the schedules and my coworkers are being mandated to stay and work double shifts whether we are float or not. Is there a MN state law or federal law that protects aides against excessive mandates? people have worked 2-3 double shifts in a row.

personally I had been required to work 16 hrs, have 8 off (1.5 spent driving) and return the following day to work.

any advice

Posted by

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My pregnant girlfriend works 12 hr night shift at the Reading hospital. We only have a month to go until our little girl is here. I'm constantly getting upset because the hospital doesn't have enough staff to relieve her for a break or a lunch. I'm concerned for the our baby and her mother. Isn't there a law that states in a 12 hr shift the employee should be given two 15 min breaks and a half hour lunch?

Posted by

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Ive been working in an agency for some time now doing anywhere from 12-16 hour shifts without getting my break times and if I do they only say I cantake 10 minutes?? I should be getting much longer than 10 minutes its not fair to me....how do I go about getting this set up so they stop this?!

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I am a nurse in a long term care facility. One of my fellow nurses was forces to work a 21 hour shift. It was actually to be 24 hours straight I believe there is a law stating how many hours a nurse could work in a 24 hour period. I am in Illinois. Is ththere any statues regarding this?

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My wife got promoted to charge nurse a year ago and is still on a hourly wage. Since she promoted she picks up extra shifts and does not get overtime for it. She said they told her thats how it has always been. I find it hard to believe she can work extra days for her regular hourly wage.

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I worked for many years at a hospital where we put in seven days on and seven days off. However, since they begin the work week on a Wednesday, we only have three days one week and four days the next. That way, they only had to give us 8 hours of overtime. Is this legal?

Posted by

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Pennsylvania-FLSA Specifically states that LPN's are not exempt from overtime. Contact the USDOL. CNA's are exempt presently pending court challenges

Posted by

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I work 60 hours a week, mandatory as a home health nurse (LPN) in the state of MD. All with the same client. I was told this is legal because nurses, aides etc. are exempt from the overtime law and so have to work for the regular hourly wage regardless if it is over 40 a week. Is this true?

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