Wage and hour disputes over nurses' breaks

It is not uncommon for a nurse to work long sifts. In fact, for many Tennessee nurses, it is a way of life to work 10 or 12 hours in a day, many of those on their feet. Those moments off the clock are precious when a nurse can sit down for a bite to eat or some uninterrupted rest before going back on the floor. Unfortunately for some nurses, their supervisors do not respect the time off to which they are legally entitled, and this often leads to wage and hour disputes.

One health system in another state is facing legal action after its nurses complained of ongoing violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act. The lawsuit alleges that the system allowed for the habitual interruption of nurses' unpaid lunch breaks, compelling nurses to work during that time without pay. Specifically, the claim calls attention to the years between 2009 and 2016.

During that time, the health system deducted 30 minutes pay from each shift a nurse worked, and that 30 minutes was reserved for a meal break. Nevertheless, nurses were required to respond to doctors, patients, patients' family members or other staff members who made requests during the nurses' breaks. Nurses were obliged to use their uncompensated time to complete charts, meet with staff, assist patients and clean.

The nurses now seek redress for those lost wages, including overtime that may have accumulated had they been on the clock. They also have the right to request civil penalties for each violation. Tennessee nurses or other employees who experience these types of wage and hour disputes would do well to seek an attorney to evaluate their cases to determine if there is cause for similar legal action.

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