Nurses, aides, and other health care workers may be losing significant amounts of their income to employers who don’t reimburse them for work-related expenses.
These expenses can include:
- Mileage for traveling to and from home care appointments or between work locations.
- The cost of uniforms and work-related clothing.
- Equipment and tools such as stethoscopes and blood-pressure cuffs necessary to perform their job.
- Stamps and office supplies.
For employees making at or near minimum wage, these out-of-pocket costs can quickly add up. In some cases, they may even mean workers don’t earn minimum wage after these expenses are factored in. These are also effectively kickbacks to the employer, which benefits financially from having its employees cover work-related costs.
FLSA: Unreimbursed Expenses Can’t Push Pay Below Minimum Wage
The federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which protects workers from wage theft and other abuses, does not say employers have to reimburse for work-related expenses. However, the law does say that workers must be paid wages that are “free and clear of impermissible deductions…that would reduce pay below the federal minimum.”
If a health care worker is spending his or her own money on uniforms, gas, car repairs, etc., and that pushes his or take-home pay below minimum wage, it can be classified as wage theft under the FLSA. This is an actionable offense by an employer, and employees do have the right to sue under the FLSA for back wages and other compensation.
These lawsuits can be filed by individual employees, or health care workers can file class actions as a group. Acting collectively is often a very effective way of seeing policies change and receiving reimbursements through court rulings and verdicts or negotiated settlements.
Wage theft in general is actually a significant problem in the health care industry. So much so that the U.S. Department of Labor published a fact sheet to inform workers of their rights.
Consult a Lawyer to See If Your Unreimbursed Expenses Violate the FLSA
Because wage abuse can be a gray area, it is best for nurses, aides, and other health care workers to consult an experienced employment litigator familiar with the FLSA regarding unreimbursed expenses. If you have a case, you and your colleagues could be entitled to reimbursement for lost wages and other compensation.