There have been a number of cases and settlements throughout the country over the last few years involving healthcare workers who are required to work through lunch breaks but whose employer automatically deducts time for lunch each day. Pursuant to the Fair Labor Standards Act, in order to deduct time from an employee’s time records for a lunch break, the break must be uninterrupted – meaning that the employee is not performing any work. As nurses and other employees with direct patient care responsibilities will tell you, uninterrupted lunch breaks are difficult if not impossible.
One fairly recent settlement involved a hospital in Wisconsin. The settlement totaled over $1,000,000 to compensate all non-exempt professional/technical employees employed by St. Elizabeth Hospital from February 10, 2012, until February 9, 2014, with direct patient care responsibilities whose scheduled hours included an automatic deduction for unpaid meal breaks and who worked in the following departments:
• East Region Nursing Float Pool