1. Fellow nurses: I have a few questions regarding breaks. Any feedback is appreciated!

    1)In my current job, nurses are typically not allowed to leave the premises for their lunch break d/t being required to maintain the nurse to patient ratio. The only time we can leave is if the manager is in the building because they are licensed. Because of this, we spend our breaks in the break room (off the floor). Is this truly considered a break (which gets docked from our pay)??

    2) If you work >8 hours, how much paid break time versus unpaid break time are you supposed to get? I thought it was 30mins of paid break and 30mins unpaid. If that is the case, what happens if you only get to take 1 30 minute break? Is that half hour supposed to get docked from your pay?

    3) I often cannot take lunch breaks (or at least a full 30 minute lunch break) at my job. I put "no lunch" in the time clock at the end of my shift when I do not take one (as per the instructions). For example, if I am the only nurse in the building (dialysis clinic) I do not feel comfortable leaving the floor, and do not have another nurse to cover me, so I don't take a break (aside from a bathroom break or two) I input "no lunch taken". WELL, on the advice of a fellow nurse, I started monitoring my timeclock entries more carefully and discovered the following: My manager erased two of my "No lunch taken" entries (without saying anything before or after doing so) and docked my pay for last week by a full hour for lunch time that I documented I had NOT taken. In other words, she changed my timeclock data without informing me or even verififying with me whether or not I had taken a break. I'm fairly sure that this is illegal. Has anyone ever experienced this??

    I'm really just trying to get an idea of how we should be getting compensated/docked. I feel really taken advantage of and I'm not sure where to go next. Thanks!
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  3. by   Accolay
    The best I can offer is you should check your current contract language and talk to your union steward/representative about what's happening.
  4. by   lindseylpn
    1. Yep, in my experience most nursing jobs don't let the nurses leave the premises for lunch. The only place I've worked where you could leave at lunch was at a Drs office and that's because, the whole clinic shut down for lunch.

    2. That's going to depend on your state and company policy. I don't think paid breaks are a legal requirement. Every place I've ever worked had different lunch/break policies. Some places had an unpaid lunch plus some paid breaks (1 or 2 breaks lasting 10 or 15 minutes) , other places only had an unpaid lunch break (30 minutes or 1 hour). I work at a residential group home now and I'm the only nurse, I have no scheduled breaks nor am I docked for an unpaid lunch. I can eat whenever I have the chance though.

    3. That seems illegal to me too, I'd probably talk to someone about that.. I've worked at a job where we never got time to take a lunch, we were told repeatedly that we needed to take one but, there was no chance to. To my knowledge they never docked me for a lunch without my knowledge but, I never really paid that much attention to my check stub. I definitely will now though if I ever work a job where lunch is impossible to take..
    Last edit by lindseylpn on Feb 6
  5. by   Meriwhen
    1. I get to go wherever I want for breaks, including off the campus. They don't count management or charge nurses in the ratio by not giving them patients. If they do have patients, then they can't relieve us since no one can relieve them, and therefore we don't have any breaks.

    2. Since facilities handle compensations for breaks differently, this would be something that is specific to your facility. Check your union's contract and/or HR to see how this is addressed.

    3. The fact that management is altering your time card to be inaccurate isn't kosher at all. If you have evidence of this, you could talk to your union steward and/or put in a complaint to HR...but keep in mind that by doing that, you will likely paint a huge target on your back.
  6. by   RNKPCE
    Because you are talking about ratios are you in California? Here is a link that talks about California Law in regards to meal and rest breaks. Often times there is a culture in work places that perpetuates not speaking up against illegal employment practices because of fear of retailiation. Even within one institution there can be nursing units where staff "work for free" and other units where staff would never think of doing so.

    What Break Periods Am I Entitled To? (218) - California Labor and Employment Law
  7. by   klone
    1. That's illegal. When you're off the clock, you can do what you want. If you are required to maintain nurse patient ratios, then you're not truly taking an unpaid lunch break.

    2. Every state is different, but I can tell you that in my state, for an 8-hour shift, you should have one 30-minute unpaid lunch break, and 2 15-minute paid breaks. And you cannot combine them. (for a 12-hour shift, it would be one unpaid 30 minute lunch and 3 15-minute paid breaks). If you get to take your two separate 15 minute breaks, but not your 30 minute break, then you should be paid for that 30 minutes. If you don't take either or both of your 15 minute breaks, we need to document that (for staffing law purposes) but you don't get any additional pay.

    3. It does sound illegal to me, but I am not an attorney, nor do I play one on TV. Do you have a union? Otherwise, many state labor boards have hotlines where you can file a complaint.
  8. by   NurseSpeedy
    I'm pretty sure that anything over six hours for someone 18 or older requires one unpaid thirty minute lunch break.

    Fifteen minute breaks have been dictated by employer (paid). These were not guaranteed even if they were offered. Since they were paid (‘on the clock') we were always required to stay on campus. Those who had to leave campus for any reason had to clock out and not get paid. I'm pretty sure that's so that if anything happens to you while your off campus they cannot get sued in today's sue happy world.

    Altering your time card is not cool. Some companies I have worked for required supervisor cosignature for approval of skipping lunch. That's a whole different conversation that I'm not going to get into right now...

    If they're requiring you to stay, then it shouldn't be considered your unpaid lunch. This is obviously because they want to be able to call you back to work before your 30 minutes if they need you. In that case, you bet I'm clocking back in before the lunch requirement is met.
  9. by   TriciaJ
    1. I'm not sure about the policy of being able to leave the building during breaks. Most employers do not allow this. If you can get away from your patients and your duties for 30 minutes, that is a break.

    2. For an 8 hr day, you should get an unpaid 30 min lunch break and two 15 min coffee breaks. If you can only get off for 30 mins then that is your paid coffee break time and your lunch is missed and needs to be compensated.

    3. A manager altering the time clock? That is not remotely legal. This needs to be reported to the Labour Board yesterday. The hospital I used to work at was found to have this happening and they had a class action lawsuit filed against them. This is not a legal grey area. Their a$$ needs to be nailed to the wall.
  10. by   Neats
    The Department of Labor does not require lunch or coffee breaks. There are states (21 last I counted) with meal breaks that are required and depends on your state. I would check your new hire packet to see what the rules are. If there is verbiage in for breaks/lunch I would continue to write my missed meals/breaks and make a copy. You would need to contact your local Department of Labor, Most people do this after they quit. I would never change someone's time card without them knowing, agreeing and countersigning.
  11. by   vjk0009
    the requirement is not to be obligated to take the break; its a federal law that they have to allow you time to break. but if you don't take it because you worked they are legally supposed to pay you for your time.

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