Recently, a lawsuit in Washington state resulted in a unanimous decision in favor of the nurses. The Washington State Supreme Court held that nurses should be paid overtime when they were prevented from taking their breaks. The lawsuit involved approximately 1,200 nurses who worked for Providence Sacred Heart Medical Centre, in Washington.
Despite finding for the nurses, the court did not find that the hospital's failure to pay for missed breaks was a willful violation.
Nurses work long hours already, putting themselves at risk of errors related to fatigue and problems with alertness. Because their patients' illness is not guided by the nurses' break times??"emergencies can and do happen at any time, and nurses are expected to deal with them accordingly??"nurses often wind up working unpaid through their breaks. Even just two missed breaks in a week adds up to one extra hour of overtime a week, which, over the course of a year, can total a decent sum of money.
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But at the end of the day, nurses, like anyone else, deserve to be paid for the hours they work and if they work through their unpaid breaks, they deserve compensation for that time.
Not all nurses are eligible for overtime pay. For example, executive or administrative workers are exempt from overtime, as are registered nurses on a salary of a minimum of $455 per week and who are registered with a state examining board. But registered nurses who are paid hourly and most licensed practical nurses are eligible for overtime pay.