working for free

  1. I am on staff at a local hospital in the cardiac stepdown unit on a PRN basis. I recently began working for an agency ( just at one hospital) one or two days a week. No one ever gets lunch or breaks at either hospital. In fact, if the agency calls me in, you can bet it's a particularly hairy day.

    When I work Agency, the hospital wants me to have the Nursing Supervisor sign my time slip if I claim "no lunch" or if I work over 8 or 12 hours. It isn't unusual for a staff nurse to have to skip lunch or stay over to finish charting, but the hospital doesn't want to pay agency money for me to stay late or work through lunch.

    I'm in a no-win situation. If I claim no lunch, or if I stay late, they'll most likely say I have a time management problem, and stop calling me to work. The other alternative is to claim a lunch break and work 30 minutes for free. The same goes for staying over to finish up. Do I just work free so I look more efficient?

    Finding the Nursing Supervisor can be a nightmare, too. One night it took 40 minutes to find her to come sign my time slip because I skipped a 30 minute lunch break! I didn't get paid for the 40 minutes I waited. What's the solution?
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  2. 22 Comments

  3. by   nightingale
    I do not work for free. I clock all my time worked. This would include 1/4 hour increments.

    If the other staff is putting in this type of extra time, it is only reasonable to assume you will need to also. With your presentation for your time slip, make none. Do not apologize for honest time worked. Do not make excuses or a story. "Assume the sale" (hold your head high) and ask the manager where you can locate her readily when you need to have your slip signed. She/he may be willing to presign the slip if you generally run a usual time over.

    I hope this helps you. We need to be clear with management and the other staff that our time is also valuable and compensated (just like theirs).

    B.
  4. by   Brita01
    NancyRN, that happened to me this morning when I got off from my 12 hour night shift. I stayed over a lousy 15 minutes taking care of last minute things like giving insulin and finishing my charting of graphics and I & Os. At 7:45am when I went to get my ticket signed, the night supervisor was already gone so the day supervisor signed it. She, however, refused to accept the additional 15 minutes because the "night supervisor had not informed her that anyone would be leaving late". And then she proceeds to tell me to have the night supervisor sign my slip the next time I'll be leaving late. Now does that make sense? How can the night supervisor sign my timeslip when he's already left the hospital? And how do you know how late you're going to be leaving.....well, until you're leaving that late? There are usually last minute things that come up that make you stay over you're shift ranging from low blood sugars to waiting on your relief nurses so that you can give report. I tell you, it's just another way to screw us over. But try walking off the floor before all of your paperwork is done and they'll be calling up your agency complaining. Yet, they're not willing to pay you the time it takes to stay over and finish.
  5. by   nightingale
    It may be easier and more politically correct to have your agency contact the hospital/facility and have them ask how to handle overtime. They will be interested in knowing too (since they too are paid a portion of this).

    There are also labor laws that cover this type of issue.

    Let us know how this turns out.

    B.
  6. by   NancyRN
    A good idea. I'll contact my agency, and I will post and let everyone know what happens.
  7. by   canoehead
    At my hospital the sups have to sign the time cards if more than 30 min over, but we just sign em (per manager request) unless we have a clear cut case of someone reading a magazine etc. However I have signed cards because of a new admit at shift change, or a procedure and come to find out that the OT nurse actually left all the work for the oncoming shift- didn't actually do the work. So the manager gets a note in that case.

    Anyway we are going after the multioffenders, and those that clock out late only occasionally are not the target (just sign em off). Sometimes you have to punish everyone for awhile so you have documentation to prove the troublemakers need special treatment.
  8. by   NancyRN
    Reading a magazine?
  9. by   canoehead
    Yep, a magazine, I kid you not. Avon catalogue.
  10. by   EXOTIC NURSE
    Most of the agency staff at my place of employment get their work done and leave because of the hassles they get for staying over late .....they do not get paid to stay late so they try their best to be done and finished by clockout time .....it is so frustrating for them at times sometimes I will even help them out so they can leave it is so unfair for them......
  11. by   jamistlc
    I do not work for free!
    I also often do not get a lunch, much less 2 smoke breaks in my 8-12 hour shift. Often I get called in after the shift starts anyway and play catch up all day or night, (night is easier to catch up on)! I am a agency nurse too! I have not found that my time card matters, what does is that I do the job to a reasonable conclusion regardless if it takes an hour into the next shift or I lose a lunch!:chuckle
  12. by   nightingale
    My agency has a call out agreement. If you are called out after 2 hours of shift start, regardless of when you start, you are paid at from the start of shift. Yes, you need to be reasonable. An example of this is when I was called an hour after shift start, and I got to the place of work an hour after that. I started at 9AM and shift start was 7AM.

    I also had a little bit of OT that day and was paid at time and a half.

    The agency has the contract regarding these issues. Talk with them.

    Canoe, are you agency? Just curious....

    Exotic, it is nice to hear you are helping the agency staff. Do the regular employees get OT when they work over? Do you just use Agency minimally? I am disheartened that your agency people are treated that way. They need to speak up to the right people (like their agency). It is illegal to not pay people who actually work OT. Is this a double standard?

    B.
    Last edit by nightingale on Apr 14, '02
  13. by   canoehead
    I'm a supervisor but regular staff (not agency) at my hospital and I was referring to problems with regular staff misusing OT. Most don't and damn well deserve every minute of OT they put in for...but then there are those that work to a different drummer.
  14. by   caduca
    I've got to put in my 2 cents here. The issue of being paid for hours worked lies between the employer and the employee- specifically, the agency and the agency nurse. What can and can not be billed for is an issue between the agency and hospital, not the nurse. If a nurse notates the hours that he/she works and is not compensated by the agency, that is a violation of federal law and the agency can be audited and fined- and the nurse WILL receive adequate compensation (payment in full) as a result of the audit. Any subsequent violations on behalf of the agency can result in further financial, punitive action or worse. "If you don't get the signatures to approve the lunch not worked, we can not bill the hospital" is not a replacement for the law. That being said, this is what I suggest:

    Agency work involves self marketing of skills and teamwork. Do not make this billing issue between the agency and the hospital something that negatively reflects upon you. For a 12 hour shift with no lunch and a hospital that refuses to sign for the time you worked, simply notate the times you actually worked (12.5 hours) and leave it at that. If the authorizing hospital employee is not happy with this, simply write on your time slip- bill only 12 hours and tell her/him your agency will take care of it. Keep your reputation free from harm and smile during the entire interaction. Now, your agency MUST pay you. They do have the right to also counsel you to take your breaks and subsequently fire if they wish, but if they do you are working for the wrong agency anyway.

    Can you blame the hospital for wanting a 30 minute discount when they are getting stiffed with 31% profit margins? There is a reason why the top stock on Wall Street is healthcare agency work- and not not necessarily an ethical reason (those are our tax dollars too that are being shoveled out to keep not-for-profit hospitals afloat). Unfortunately, the agencies that run huge profit margins are the most inflexible in these situations. Their corporate affiliation holds them to a certain (rather large) profit expectation. My agency routinely pays for time the hospital considers "off the clock" for billing purposes. There is something to be said about volume business, partnership, and satisfied customers. This is an issue between you and your agency- don't let them make it out to be the hospital. Take charge of the situation and inform your staffer how it will be handled.

    Feel free to contact me if your agency won't honor the time you put in- I'll even give you the number of the federal authority you can contact for the backpay!
    Last edit by caduca on Apr 21, '02

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