AUTO-DEDUCTED BREAKS GETS HOSPITAL IN HOT WATER
Nevada law requires that employers provide employees with appropriate meal and rest periods. Employees who work a continuous eight (8) hour period are entitled to an uninterrupted 30-minute meal period (NRS 608.019). Employees are entitled to a 10-minute rest period for every four (4) hours worked; employees who work three and one-half (3.5) hours or less are not entitled by law to a rest period (NRS 608.019; NAC 608.145).
Federal law, on the other hand, does not require meal or rest periods. However, federal law does recognize that when rest periods are offered they are compensable as time worked, but bona fide meal periods are not.
Since rest periods are considered time worked, it’s not common to see claims get filed by employees alleging they were not paid for rest periods. What is common is to see claims from employees alleging that they worked through their unpaid meal period and were therefore not compensated for all time worked. This was the case for a Las Vegas-area hospital recently.
A Las Vegas-area hospital recently settled a lawsuit brought by approximately 600 current and former employees alleging wage and hour violations under state and federal law. The hospital agreed to pay up to $4.25 million to resolve claims that it failed to pay current and former employees for all time worked – specifically due to its auto-deduction meal period policy and procedure.
The employees alleged that the hospital deducted 30 minutes each day the employee worked for a meal period without determining whether the employees actually took a 30-minute uninterrupted meal break or not. The hospital denied any wrongdoing and said that all employees were properly compensated in accordance with federal and state law. Following the initial filing of the lawsuit, the hospital implemented a new meal time policy requiring employees to clock in and clock out for meal periods.
The main issue was that the hospital could not definitively show that employees were provided an uninterrupted 30-minute meal period as required by Nevada law. They could only show that 30 minutes had been deducted from the employees’ pay for a meal period, but that’s it.
While auto-deductions for meal periods is not against the law, it clearly can be problematic and costly. In this case, the employer appears to have known that a 30-minute meal period was required by state law, but did not take the extra step to ensure it’s employees were actually taking those meal periods.
It’s the employer’s responsibility to maintain accurate time records (NRS 608.115). There is no requirement on how that is done under state or federal law. However, as you can see, failing to maintain accurate time records can result in adverse determinations against the employer. That is true even if the employer is otherwise in compliance with wage and hour law (because how do you prove it).
Nevada Association of Employer (NAE) makes a Fact Sheet on meal and rest periods under Nevada law available for download through our Member Portal. Not a member of NAE? Join today to get access access to our team of professionals with years of HR and/or legal experience through our HR Hotline, a complimentary all-in-one federal & state labor law poster with update service, access to sample policies, job descriptions, compliance checklists, etc. through our Member Portal, a sample employee handbook and/or an employee handbook review, discounted pricing on training and events, access to the only Nevada-specific wage survey available, and a growing list of new products and services.
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