A wage-and-hour lawsuit filed in Texas by a nurse at a large hospital alleges the health system docks the pay of nurses each shift for 30 minutes, but they aren’t actually allowed a 30-minute meal break. Instead, nurses are expected to remain on duty for the duration of their shift.
According to the Houston Chronicle, plaintiff is seeking class-action status for her and 4,000 other nurses who she says should be paid for the time they spend with patients on “phantom” lunch breaks. The lawsuit was filed in a federal court in Houston. Plaintiff asserts the hospital system’s payroll program automatically takes out 30 minutes for meal periods every shift, even though nurses don’t actually get 30 minutes uninterrupted in any given shift. Instead, nurses have to be available the entire shift to care for and attend to patients.
In California, the Department of Industrial Relations holds that companies can’t force an employee to work more than five hours in a given day without providing the worker meal breaks of at least 30 minutes. The only exception is if the worker’s entire work day is no more than six hours. In that case, the meal break can be waived – but only if both the employer and employee mutually consent to it. Further, workers are entitled to a second, 30-minute meal break after 10 hours, except if the employee is going to be working no more than 12 hours and there is mutual consent from both employee and company. (Some variations exist within the motion picture industry.) Continue reading