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Nurses and Medical Professionals Frequently Shorted Overtime Pay They are Legally Entitled

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Nurses and medical professionals are critical to the health and well being 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.

Nurses are Covered by Federal Overtime Law

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.

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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:

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

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 very likely 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.

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:

  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.

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 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.

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FLSA claims are subject to a two year statute of limitations (sometimes three).

Employees who prevail on their claims could recover all of their back pay going back up to three years, double back pay, and attorneys' fees.


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

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