When was the last time you were able to step away from patients, doctors, and phone calls to enjoy a completely uninterrupted lunch break? If you’re like many nurses, nursing assistants, and patient-care staff in the Houston area, it’s probably been a while—and just the idea of a break with no interruptions might even be laughable.
Wage and Overtime Abuses Are Common for Nurses—But That Doesn’t Make It Right
Unfortunately, although nurses across the nation end up working through their scheduled meal and rest breaks on a regular basis, the reality is that many are not paid for that time. This fact has recently hit home in Texas with the launch of a potential collective-action lawsuit that includes more than 5000 patient-care employees with Methodist Hospitals in Houston. In the suit, a former nursing employee claims that the employer violated labor law by denying regular and overtime pay to nurses who ended up working through their breaks.
The Problem With Automatically Deducted Meal Breaks at Methodist Hospital
In the case of Methodist Hospital, the problem centers on a time-keeping system that automatically deducts breaks from employee paychecks, regardless of actual time worked. Under the law, employers must compensate employees for all of the time spent performing work duties, and that includes the time nursing employees spend working through automatically deducted “meal breaks,” whether they are:
- Directly assisting patients
- Returning phone calls and calling in prescriptions
- Monitoring a phone line, even if no calls come in
- Finishing up notes and charting
- Responding to doctor requests
- Responding to emails
- Prepping charts, exam rooms, etc.
While Methodist Hospitals officially allowed nurses and patient-care employees to fill out a timesheet correction form when they worked through lunch, employees say that claiming corrections was discouraged in practice, and most employees ended up working that time for free.
Choosing Patient Care Over Your Wage and Overtime Rights
When you are responsible for patient care, you don’t have the option of stepping away when your scheduled break rolls around—but you shouldn’t have to choose between quality patient care and the overtime pay you deserve under the law. When you eat a sandwich while checking voicemail lines or find yourself being pulled out of the break room before you even sit down, not only are your wage rights being violated, but you also miss out on the rest you need to be the best for the patients you care for. Your employer cannot legally make you work for free, and giving up your rights to appropriate pay should never be “just part of the job.”
While the time you spend working on your lunch break may only add up to a few hours here and there, that unpaid time adds up quickly, especially when it pushes you into overtime. For nurses and patient-care staff, this could realistically add up to thousands of dollars in unpaid wages each year. But you can take action to claim what you are rightfully owed.
Taking Action to Recover Back Pay From Methodist Hospitals in Houston
If you are a current or former patient-care employee of Methodist Hospitals in the Houston area, you can get answers about your overtime rights and the current wage lawsuit today—for free and with no obligation. Simply call our friendly team at Kennedy Hodges directly at 1-855-947-0707, or if you’re ready, take action today by joining the lawsuit here.