U.S. Supreme Court to hear nurse’s case on unpaid meal breaks

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According to Modern Healthcare, a healthcare employment case brought about in 2009 by a registered nurse will go before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Registered nurse Laura Symczyk, who claimed that her employer Pennypack Center (a Philadelphia subsidiary of Genesis HealthCare Corp.) violated the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 by deducting meal breaks from her paycheck, regardless of whether she actually took those breaks.

What’s interesting to note here is that when the case was originally filed on her behalf, as well as other employees who may have felt similarly affected – no one else joined the suit. Symczyk, the lone plaintiff in the case, settled out of court. However, the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia declined to dismiss the case, which led to Monday’s announcement.

What’s going on here? Why do you think other nurses didn’t join in on the suit? Have you ever heard of pay deductions for a nurse’s meal breaks?

Source: Modern Healthcare



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5 Responses to U.S. Supreme Court to hear nurse’s case on unpaid meal breaks

  1. tammyjoc

    I’ve more than heard of it being deducted, meal time was deducted from my paycheck whether i took dinner or not, even though i was RN supervisor overnight (only nurse on duty, actually only one nurse on duty) and could not leave building whether i took dinner or not. If i did take dinner i sat at my desk so i would be near phone to answer. We were told to take thirty minutes or it would be deducted anyway. I had to be on hand for phone and for med deliveries. Sometimes i would wait until after 3 am for med deliveries and i got relieved by oncoming RN at 0545.

  2. gladys

    i have worked for 30yrs. we have always had meal deducted from our 8 1/2 hr shift. if we dont get to take a 30 min break, we have to write it on a log in order for us to get it paid. many of my coworkers have a strange idea on this…they dont want to be pesty or cause problems….but….if we are late, or over 0.1 and up, we have to be accountable for it. so what is good for the goose, is good for the gander. so to speak. if the establishment makes a big deal of me being 0.1 late, and it counts against me on my evaluation, then they need to pay me for working the 0.5 (30 min) lunch break that we hardly ever get. has always been a pet peeve of mine. it adds up. if you are full time, and you never get your 30 min lunch break for one week, you are giving your employer 2 1/2 hrs of free labor. i dont see them giving me anything free. it is called benefits. as all professions should get. my hospital violates this law all the time for years. and when someone brings it up, its like a dirty little secret we are to keep. its labor law. and hospitals and those nurses who are in management positions are just as guilty of not adhereing to it as the non nurse manager in the next office. i find it very insulting to me as a 1.employee,2.person3.professional who maintains licensure and continuing education4.woman in general. everyone who does any job at any place needs their time for breaks,lunch,bathroom time,stress relief time. in spite of what some people may think, nurses are human too, and we need to eat and go potty just like our patients, and our bosses.

  3. zorita

    Yes, our facility deducts 30 minutes of a 12 hour shift for meal breaks but we may send payroll a memo that we did not receive a meal break and not have that time deducted. However, when our day is so busy that a meal away from our duties is not an option , who is thinking of this when the shift is finally over? Nurses are one of very few professions that is so dedicated to their responsibilty of caring for others that they frequently forgo breaks and meals to give the care they believe their patients deserve. Management only takes advantage by short staffing and not providing relief to cover for meals and breaks.

  4. zorita

    Why didn’t others join her suit? Fear of reprisal and censor by management.

  5. Nurse Rene

    It is a shame that a simple thing such as not being paid for a break that someone never gets must make it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court in order to be resolved. It seems trivial on the surface but in fact this is an issue of MONEY which goes on everywhere, everyday. And the truth is that employers WILL intimidate nurses to keep them from suing for their own Rights under the Law. These are situations where State Nurses’ Associations COULD be highly effective, if only they WOULD…