Hospital employees responsible for direct patient care work long shifts and tend to the needs of the hospital’s patients tirelessly. Due to the demands of their work, it is virtually impossible to take a completely uninterrupted meal break. Nurses are interrupted by their assigned phone ringing, patients and their families asking questions, doctors asking for assistance, calls from other departments, etc. Many simple forego their meal break altogether.
Under the law, these employees should be paid for the time that they spend working. However, many health care facilities automatically deduct time for meal breaks from every shift, regardless of whether the employee takes the break or has to work during the break. Under the law, in order for an employer to justify not paying employees for meal breaks, the employee must be completely relieved of all duties. This means if a nurse eats lunch at the nurses’ station, but the nurse is required to answer calls as they come in, she must be paid for that time—even if the phone does not ring.
If you are an employee responsible for direct patient care at one of the 7 Houston-area Methodist Hospitals, and you were subject to the Hospital’s automatic meal period deduction, please contact our office for help at (713) 523-0001. For more information about the case, visit this recent article from the Houston Chronicle.