Getting Paid for Every Minute You Work

by Patti on August 24, 2007

in Advice for CNA's

About being paid for the hours we work…this is an article about the LTC industry and Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA or the “Act”):

Another minefield, as simple as it may seem to navigate, is tracking and counting “hours worked” to determine if overtime pay is due. The key words are “compensable hours,” and hours can be considered compensable even if they are not scheduled or authorized beforehand or approved after the fact if they are indeed “worked” by the employee. The time is worked for purposes of the FLSA if the employer “suffers” or “permits” it to be worked. That is, if the employer, or one of its “agents” for this purpose (head nurse, unit coordinator, department head or, for that matter, any supervisor), knows or reasonably should know that the employee has performed work, it must be counted. Rank-and-file employees should be instructed that any time they are performing work, it is “on the clock.” Supervisors must be trained to, among many other things under the FLSA, recognize that any time an employee is performing job-related tasks, be it before or after the start or end of a shift, during lunch or other unpaid breaks, or even at home, he/she must ensure that the time is included in compensable hours for overtime calculation purposes. If the supervisor “suffers” or “permits” the employee to work, it is counted toward the overtime threshold.

THIS means, simply, that if you work, you get paid irregardless of whether the DON or other supervisor “approved” the hours. Often I read at the forums that we’re not paid because the time wasn’t approved by the boss. Legally, we have to get paid.

Employers must also become familiar with what job-related activities are considered compensable activities and which are not. For example, requiring an employee to change into a uniform at the worksite is compensable, while worksite clothes-changing for employee convenience is not. Pre-shift distribution of work or assignments and, by all means, shift change meetings or “report” are compensable, as are simple things like having an employee pick up or drop off mail or packages on the way from/to home or during lunch. Performance of work during unpaid lunch periods is particularly troublesome—a huge minefield—for healthcare employers. Regulations require that the lunch break be “uninterrupted” and be at least 30 minutes for the employer to exclude it from time worked. It is not uncommon for LTC employees to eat at their workstations or with residents, and it is also not uncommon for caregivers to be called or be called back during lunch break to deal with resident issues. All of these are problematic. If the employee’s lunch break is interrupted—he/she performs any work—the entire break becomes compensable time in determining if overtime pay is due.

So…remember this when you’re on your break and get called to the unit. Check your pay stubs to make sure you’ve been paid. It helps to keep a personal log of the hours you work…a little notebook will suffice for this purpose. The date, time clocked in, out, breaks (especially) taken and clocking in/out AND, importantly, going back to the unit. I think it’s safe to say a great many of us get screwed over often, in pay because of these “little” things. We work hard and we often miss our breaks. Let’s get paid what we’re due.

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