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August 9, 2016

Wage Suit Against Hospital Highlights The Dangers Of "Auto-Docking" For Meal Breaks

The practice of automatically deducting a set amount of time (e.g., 30 minutes) from employees’ pay to account for meal breaks, instead of having employees actually clock in and out for each meal break, (referred to as “auto-deducting” or “auto-docking”) comes with significant risks for any employer that implements the practice. A recent suit against a Dallas-based hospital system underscores that auto-docking is particularly dangerous for employers in the health care industry, creating an unnecessary vulnerability to claims for unpaid wages.

By way of background, under both the federal Fair Labor Standards Act and the New York Labor Law, bona fide meal breaks are not required to be paid. However, if an employee performs any work during the meal period, the employee must be compensated. In addition, employers are responsible for keeping accurate records of all time that employees work. If such records do not exist, the Department of Labor or a court is likely to rely on the employee’s account of time he or she worked.

On July 28th, a nurse filed a collective action under the Fair Labor Standards Act on behalf of as many as 1,000 current and former nurses employed by a Dallas-based hospital system. The suit alleges that the nurses are owed pay (including overtime) for time that they performed work during their meal breaks.

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