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Nurses Frequently Shorted Overtime Pay They are Legally Entitled.

Nurses are critical to the health and wellbeing of our loved ones. But with the ever-evolving pressures on the healthcare industry, they are frequently shorted the pay they deserve and to which they are legally entitled.

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

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:

(1) The nurse must be paid on a salary or fee basis at a rate of a minimum amount per week;

(2) The nurse's primary duty must be the performance of work requiring "advanced knowledge;"

(3) The "advanced knowledge" must be in a field of science or learning; and

(4) The "advanced knowledge" must be customarily acquired by a prolonged course of specialized intellectual instruction.

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

The second, third, and fourth requirements mandate that the nurse be performing work requiring "advanced knowledge." This means that the work is predominantly intellectual in character and which includes work requiring the consistent exercise of discretion and judgment. Generally, licensed vocational nurses (LVNs) do not meet this requirement for two reasons: (1) possession of an advanced degree is not a prerequisite for LVN positions; and (2) 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, on a per visit basis, or any other compensation scheme.

And where registered nurses or nurse practitioners are paid by the hour or do the type of work that is typically or could be done by LVNs, they are likely also entitled to overtime wages.

Nurses are often subject to various pay practices that violate the FLSA. For example, automatic meal deductions are allowed, but given the nature of nurses' work, they 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 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.

If you or a loved one is a nurse and do not meet the above elements, you may be entitled to overtime from your employer. The Moreland Law Firm can review your pay arrangement to determine if you are being paid correctly.  Contact us online or call 512-782-2293 for a free consultation.

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