Time and attendance continues to receive more attention as an employment issue. A class action lawsuit in Texas has put a spotlight on time and attendance practices in the healthcare industry.
In Salcedo et al. v. St. Luke’s Health System Corp. et al. a former nurse has filed a class-action lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Houston involving 10 facilities in the St. Luke’s Health System in the Houston metro area. The lawsuit claims that nurses at the facilities were automatically docked for 30-minute meal breaks they hadn’t necessarily taken because of their patient responsibilities.
Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), employees are not paid for “bona fide” meal breaks (uninterrupted meal times, averaging 30 minutes or more). When taking meals, employees typically should clock out during that time frame and clock back in once they resume working. However, that apparently is not what happens at St. Luke’s facilities. Employees allege the hospital automatically deducts their 30-minutes for breaks, assuming nurses on duty are taking these lunch breaks. The nurses say they don’t always have bona fide meal breaks because they often tend to patients during meal times. They are now seeking to be compensated for unpaid wages, claiming that the automatic meal break deductions are in violation of the FLSA standards.
According to the Houston Chronicle, a similar lawsuit was brought last year against Houston Methodist Hospital on behalf of 5,000 nurses, nursing assistants, and patient-case assistants who alleged that they were not paid during lunch breaks, but still had to respond to patient calls, meet with physicians and perform other duties.
According to TSheets, FLSA wage and hour lawsuits are up 456%, with healthcare being the industry with the second highest total of FLSA violations, surpassed only by the hospital and food service industry. Rounding out the top 5 industries with FLSA violations are retail, construction, and manufacturing. More than $400 million have been collected in back wages and fines paid since 1985.
These lawsuits in Texas illustrate the need to be sure you have a formal time and attendance policy and procedure for your business. While these lawsuits involve employees working on-site, time and attendance can also be a challenge for companies with employees who work remotely. Accurate time and attendance data is crucial for compliance with regulations and for business purposes, such as meeting deadlines on projects and managing overtime.
Employers should take steps to be sure that their time and attendance practices conform with labor laws and regulatory requirements and that accurate data is being collected. It will be an investment that pays off if it helps your business avoid legal action such as a class action lawsuit.