What Medical Professionals Need to Know About their Compensation Rights

Nurses and medical professionals are critical to the health and well-being of our loved ones.

But with the ever-increasing pressures on workers in the healthcare industry, they are frequently shorted the pay they deserve and to which they are legally entitled.

Nurses are Covered by Federal Overtime Law

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is the federal law that governs how employers pay their workers.

It requires employers pay employees minimum wage (currently $7.25 per hour) and an overtime rate of time and a half for all hours worked over forty in a week.

Nurses are usually paid enough to satisfy the minimum wage requirements of the FLSA. But we regularly see employers failing to pay nurses overtime even when required.

Only Nurses With Specialized Duties and Educational Background can be Denied Overtime

Whether a nurse is entitled to overtime revolves around whether they are classified as a "Learned Professional" under the FLSA.

To be a Learned Professional (and exempt from overtime), the nurse must satisfy each of the following requirements:

  • The nurse must be paid on a salary or fee basis at a rate of a minimum amount per week;
  • The nurse's primary duty must be the performance of work requiring "advanced knowledge;"
  • The "advanced knowledge" must be in a field of science or learning;
  • The "advanced knowledge" must be customarily acquired by a prolonged course of specialized intellectual instruction.

Is It An Unpaid Internship Or Just Free Labor For The Company?

According to the Department of Labor, one of the most important guiding principles of any internship is that it is for the benefit of the intern — not the company. Unpaid internships must provide valuable experiences and cannot be used to replace or supplement the work of regular employees.

Abuse of unpaid internships tends to increase during recessions and tough economic times, but can and does occur in any economic climate.

To be Exempt From Overtime, Nurses Must be Paid a Guaranteed Salary

The first requirement—that the nurse be paid on a salary or fee basis—means that nurses paid by the hour are entitled to overtime for their long hours of work, regardless of their duties.

And even some nurses paid a "salary" may be entitled to overtime if the salary is not guaranteed or varies from week to week.

That salary should not change from week to week no matter how many days the employee works, as long as the employee does some work during the week.

If the employee is paid a "salary" that changes from week to week depending on how much the employee works, the nurse is likely entitled to overtime.

LVNs, CNAs, Providers, and Technicians are Typically Entitled to Overtime

Generally, licensed vocational nurses (LVNs) are not exempt as Learned Professionals for two reasons:

  • Possession of an advanced degree is not a prerequisite for LVN positions; and
  • LVNs do not consistently exercise discretion and judgment but are instead supervised closely by other licensed professionals.

Therefore, LVNs are typically entitled to overtime even if they are paid a salary; and they are certainly entitled to overtime if they are paid on a per visit or hourly basis.

Similarly, and for the same reasons, certified nurse aides (CNAs), providers, and technicians are almost always entitled to overtime pay.

Nurses are Frequently Shorted Pay they Deserve

Nurses are often subject to various pay practices that violate the FLSA.

For example, automatic meal deductions are allowed, but given the nature of their work, nurses are often called away from their meal or break to assist with a patient.

When an unpaid meal period is interrupted, the employer must usually pay the employee for the entire meal period.

Also, when nurses arrive to work early or stay late to set up or dismantle equipment, they must be paid for that time.

Finally, if nurses travel between facilities or patients' homes, they should be compensated for that time.

Learn More About Your Rights In A Free Consultation

Your specific compensation will depend on factors such as your position within the company and whether that title is justified by the work you actually do. The best way to understand your rights and legal options is to discuss your case with an experienced employment law attorney.

If you'd like to discuss a pay practice that may violate the FLSA, call us at 512-782-2293. or e-mail us for a free consultation.