Health care workers – nurses, care aides, orderlies – have tough, demanding jobs. They earn every penny of their pay, taking care of the sick, infirm, and elderly.
Which is why it is important that health care workers are paid for everything they do in connection with their jobs. To cut costs, some employers force health care workers to perform work-related tasks before they begin their shifts or after they punch out. It might be a stated policy or something that is “just expected” of employees and communicated informally.
What Constitutes “Off-the-Clock” Work?
This is known as off-the-clock work and, in many cases, employers that don’t compensate health care workers for these tasks are breaking the law. Specifically, this violates the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) as well as many state employment regulations.
The problem is so prevalent that the U.S. Department of Labor published a fact sheet for health care workers so they could know and understand their rights under the FLSA.
Off-the-clock work that must be compensated includes:
- Travel time and mileage for nurses and care aids who do home visits or travel between job locations.
- Attending lectures, seminars, meetings and training programs.
- Booting up computers, logging onto software programs and servers, and related computer tasks. This is particularly the case for “advice nurses” who answer patient questions by phone.
- Time spent on updating patient charts and medical records.
- Time spent reviewing work-related emails and advisories before or after work.
- Time spent laundering, ironing and maintaining uniforms and work-related clothing
Often, unpaid off-the-clock pushes an employee’s workweek past 40 hours, overtime which entitles that employee to 150% of their regular hourly rate.
Failing to Compensate for Off-the-Clock Work Is Illegal
Not paying nurses, care aides and orderlies for off-the-clock work is wage theft.
If an is violating the FLSA or state employment laws regarding off-the-clock work and has not made any attempts to address employee concerns, litigation is often necessary to force compliance and recoup lost wages. This can be in the form of an individual lawsuit brought by one worker. However, many health care workers have been successful in receiving compensation for lost wages by filing class action lawsuits against their employers.
For example, a group of “advice nurses” working for Kaiser Permanente obtained a $6.25 million settlement earlier this year. The nurses alleged they were not compensated for time spent logging into and out of computer programs and applications needed for their work. This off-the-clock time was spent at the beginning and end of shifts as well as before and after meal breaks.
Other employers sued for violating the FLSA regarding off-the-clock work and other wage theft issues include:
- Advocate Health Care Network
- AMN Healthcare Services
- Bayada Home Health Care
- Centene Management Co.
- Detroit Medical Center
- Gentiva Health Services
- Lehigh Valley Hospital and Health Network
- Liberty Health Care Corporation
- Maxim Healthcare Services
- Sutter West Bay Hospitals
Consult a Lawyer Experienced in Off-the-Clock Wage Claims
If you are a healthcare worker and have not been paid wages or overtime for off-the-clock work, you – and your colleagues — may be entitled to compensation under the FLSA. A good first step is to consult an experienced employment litigation attorney who can discuss your individual case.