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Vulnerable Health Care Industry Workers and Wage and Hour Violations

August 17, 2010

In yesterday's blog, our Ontario employment lawyers discussed the Obama administration's current initiative, to investigate the health care industry's pay practices after discovering that many nursing homes and hospitals are violating wage and hour laws according to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, nursing assistants, cooks and licensed practical nurses as well as other workers within the health care industry are especially vulnerable to wage violations.

The New York Times stated in a recent article, that many health care employees are not being paid for work performed during legally required meal breaks. The Times interviewed Charles D. Boal, a former Western Pennsylvania Hospital registered nurse, working in the critical care unit, who claimed that nurses often give up lunch breaks to make sure the patient is properly cared for. Boal claimed that lunch breaks at the nursing unit were consistently filled with phone calls, talking with doctors and handling family members.

The DOL regulations state that meal periods are not work time and employers are not required to compensate for them. But an employee who is paid hourly must be entirely relieved from work duty during a meal period, and it is a manager's duty to make sure that work is not performed by these employees during meal breaks, unless the employer intends to pay for the work time. In some cases, hospitals reportedly assume that the worker has taken the meal break, and have automatically reduced an employee's compensation by the equivalent of thirty minutes per shift, even when the meal break was interrupted or not taken.

Wage and hour violations in the health care industry is said to be caused by chronic understaffing, according to nurse Catherine M. Gordon who works at Buffalo General Hospital in New York. Gordon has sued the hospital, claiming that as an employee, she would have to work without meal breaks during night shifts, holidays and weekends.

The DOL has also found in some cases that hospitals have violated wage and hour regulations by failing to pay employees who work on an hourly basis for work performed before and after their shifts. These workers reportedly were also not compensated by the home care agencies for time spent in travel to and from the homes of the patients.

If you or someone you know in Orange County or throughout Southern California has experienced wage and hour issues in the health care industry, our Carson employment attorneys and professionals can help. Call us for a free consultation at 1-800-872-5925.

Pay Practices in Health Care Are Investigated, The New York Times, August 9, 2010

Labor Department: 'We Can Help,' NWI.com, April 2, 2010

Labor Dept.'s New 'Sheriff' Offers Overdue Help to Wage-Theft Victims, In These Times, April 2, 2010

United States Department of Labor (DOL): We Can Help

DOL Initiates "We Can Help" Campaign Aimed at Increasing Enforcement, Wage and Hour Law Updates, April 2, 2010

L.A. Leads New York, Chicago, in Abuse of Low-wage Workers, Survey Says, Los Angeles Times, January 6, 2010

Related Web Resources:

U.S. Department of Labor: Wage and Hour Division: Handy Reference Guide to the Fair Labor Standards Act

U.S. Department of Labor