How do you get meal breaks?

  1. HAH! What's lunch? I grab what I can at the desk during lulls.

    All of a sudden, we are getting instructions from up on high that we must clock out for a 30 minute, uninterrupted meal break away from the unit. If we don't, they threaten to not pay us for the whole shift (which they would never get away with). Also, we are not allowed to leave the perimeter during our shift at all.

    The issue is that as the senior position, I'm responsible for charge duties and all emergency response in the facility. Often, I'm the only RN there and there is never another RN who is trained for this position. So, regardless of if I'm on "lunch", I still need to monitor the radio and deal with emergencies and urgencies brought to me. That doesn't sound like being "away from the unit".

    Worst case scenario I think of is running to an emergency off the clock and then getting sued and having the company throw me under the bus saying I wasn't really working because I was clocked out. This kind of thing is exactly why the officers sued and got paid breaks.

    How does your facility handle this for the nurses?
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    About DawnJ

    Joined: Jun '11; Posts: 322; Likes: 405
    Many nursing hats; from US
    Specialty: 2 year(s) of experience

    13 Comments

  3. by   newrpn
    At one of my jobs, when I am the only nurses on and cannot leave the unit, I am paid for my break.
  4. by   TeaPlease
    It's time for a reality meeting with Those On High. It's unrealistic to expect a nurse to have an uninterrupted break, sorry. Even more unrealistic (and unethical) to threaten nurses with withholding pay if breaks aren't taken.

    If your people On High can freeze time for thirty minutes to guarantee an uninterrupted break have them call my people On High.

    ETA we don't get paid for lunch and if we work through break it's "not their problem"
  5. by   embracedone
    Wow what state is this?
  6. by   embracedone
    We were told many impossible things. 30 min clock outs, don't leave the unit, respond to codes. No incremental overtime is huge!. Understaffed, new documentation, higher acuity & we get bad marks on reviews for working over. Often we can't even start charting until end of shift. Some nurses actually clocked out at shift change & then returned to do the remainder of their work!
  7. by   billswife
    Quote from embracedone
    We were told many impossible things. 30 min clock outs, don't leave the unit, respond to codes. No incremental overtime is huge!. Understaffed, new documentation, higher acuity & we get bad marks on reviews for working over. Often we can't even start charting until end of shift. Some nurses actually clocked out at shift change & then returned to do the remainder of their work!
    Yep, I've seen this happen, but I won't do it! We are "required" to take our lunch break; however, as long as we don't put "no lunch" on our time card no one cares. They just don't want to pay that extra half hour. As for the two 15 minute paid breaks during the 12 hour shift, PCTs get them but nurses never have time to go. Some of our PCTs take a "breakfast" break, a mid morning break, lunch, an afternoon break, and then a "supper" break. Not sure why this is allowed, but management knows, and they still get away with it. We have had one PCT who is friends with a manager, and she has unlimited latitude to leave at will. If the other staff bring this up they are told to "mind your own business." Oh well....
  8. by   RNforLongTime
    I'm the ONLY RN on duty at night...I DO get to go grab a bite as the chow hall is open for us from 11:15pm-1 am with Inmate workers prepping the food. Most of it is unhealthy and/or tastes blah. Most nights I get a grilled egg and cheese sandwich. I cannot go down front where I could eat my own healthier foods as other shifts can because I AM IT! Therefore I feel that I should be PAID for that time but am only paid for 8 hrs yet have to stay until 6:30am

    MOST of the time my shift is uneventful. And that's just the way I like it
  9. by   Orca
    My staff's meal breaks are included in their total hours (i. e., the shift is not extended for their breaks). It is expected that there will be interruptions, and some may require immediate response.

    To the OP - If your employer ever refuses to compensate you for your entire shift because of a meal break infraction, I would love to be your lawyer.
  10. by   DawnJ
    So, the outcome at my facility is: they recognized that it is impossible to always adhere to the rule. Night and weekends don't have coverage. As long as we fill out a shift exception report (every shift with no lunch--HA. A lunch would BE the exception) then they consider us in compliance
  11. by   kd785
    Unfortunately, this is the case in many rural hospitals where you may be the only RN or the only RN trained for ER. Many employers force you to clock out for breaks, which may be in direct opposition to the "Patient Abandoment" position statements/statutes for state nursing practice. Many state labor department/wage and hour divisions don't offer a formal position other than "Employers do not have to allow for meal breaks" There is the "you must be completely relieved" portion. Taken directly from the DOL website:
    Bona-fide meal periods (typically 30 minutes or more) are not work time, and an employer does not have to pay for them. However, the employees must be completely relieved from duty. When choosing to automatically deduct 30-minutes per shift, the employer must ensure that the employees are receiving the full meal break. See Regulations 29 CFR 785.19.

    EX: A skilled nursing facility automatically deducts one-half hour for meal breaks each shift. Upon hiring, the employer notifies employees of the policy and of their responsibility to take a meal break. Does this practice comply with the FLSA? Yes, but the employer is still responsible for ensuring that the employees take the 30-minute meal break without interruption.
    EX: An hourly paid registered nurse works at a nursing home which allows a 30-minute meal break. Residents frequently interrupt her meal break with requests for assistance. Must she be paid for these frequently interrupted meal breaks? Yes, if employees’ meals are interrupted to the extent that meal period is predominately for the benefit of the employer, the employees should be paid for the full 30-minutes.

    And......
    [/COLOR]

    Title 29: Labor
    PART 785—HOURS WORKED
    Subpart C—Application of Principles

    §785.18 Rest.


    Rest periods of short duration, running from 5 minutes to about 20 minutes, are common in industry. They promote the efficiency of the employee and are customarily paid for as working time. They must be counted as hours worked. Compensable time of rest periods may not be offset against other working time such as compensable waiting time or on-call time. (Mitchell v. Greinetz, 235 F. 2d 621, 13 W.H. Cases 3 (C.A. 10, 1956); Ballard v. Consolidated Steel Corp., Ltd.,61 F. Supp. 996 (S.D. Cal. 1945))

    As labor unions for nurses are not interested in smaller facilities/rural areas, there is little to be done unless nurses take on this challenge themselves. Many don't for fear of reprisal, job loss etc.
    I would suggest contacting your State DOL and your State Board of Nursing.
    Personally, I believe this has gone on for far too long in the nursing profession. Administration does not value nursing. We consistantly cover all other departments after hours and weekends, but where is the first place that administration typically cuts? Nursing of course, because we are generally the largest department.
  12. by   styx876
    Quote from embracedone
    We were told many impossible things. 30 min clock outs, don't leave the unit, respond to codes. No incremental overtime is huge!. Understaffed, new documentation, higher acuity & we get bad marks on reviews for working over. Often we can't even start charting until end of shift. Some nurses actually clocked out at shift change & then returned to do the remainder of their work!
    I'm a new grad RN and started working in a SNF. I have witnessed nurses not taking their 30min breaks. They just clock out for lunch, then go back to what they were doing (medpass, charting, checking the MAR, etc) then checks in after half hour. When I was orienting, I asked the nurses, what time do you take your lunch. I was told, most of the nurses just take like 5mins to eat their food then go back to work. On day 1 of me being on the floor on my own, I didn't get to sit down for 8hrs. I did medpass all through out, I punched out, then worked, then punched back in after half hour. This is the norm, they said. If you don't do this, you will be staying for hours. Nurses are always behind with their medpass because of the very high nurse-patient ratio, which is very unsafe, and gets interrupted with family members and patients asking for assistance, etc. There's no way the work being imposed to the nurses in my facility can finish the work on a reasonable time. Mostly finish at least 2hrs past their time.

    How can we make a change? I hate to see that loving and care nurses are being exploited just like this. I care for the patients and the nurses. Any solid suggestions that we may take in order to turn things around?
  13. by   Psych77
    That's ridiculous. I'm pretty sure I would quit at such a place, or somehow make sure you get your break. Nurses tend be self-sacrificing people, but I need a break to give proper care. We have a clinic, and if we have emergencies, we have the ability to cancel scheduled people. I see nurses who seem to not want to cancel people, but later say how they missed their break and are hungry. But I just started canceling people whenever needed because of so many emergencies. You need to eat to function at your best.
  14. by   Psych77
    Quote from styx876
    I'm a new grad RN and started working in a SNF. I have witnessed nurses not taking their 30min breaks. They just clock out for lunch, then go back to what they were doing (medpass, charting, checking the MAR, etc) then checks in after half hour. When I was orienting, I asked the nurses, what time do you take your lunch. I was told, most of the nurses just take like 5mins to eat their food then go back to work. On day 1 of me being on the floor on my own, I didn't get to sit down for 8hrs. I did medpass all through out, I punched out, then worked, then punched back in after half hour. This is the norm, they said. If you don't do this, you will be staying for hours. Nurses are always behind with their medpass because of the very high nurse-patient ratio, which is very unsafe, and gets interrupted with family members and patients asking for assistance, etc. There's no way the work being imposed to the nurses in my facility can finish the work on a reasonable time. Mostly finish at least 2hrs past their time.

    How can we make a change? I hate to see that loving and care nurses are being exploited just like this. I care for the patients and the nurses. Any solid suggestions that we may take in order to turn things around?
    That's ridiculous. I'm pretty sure I would quit at such a place, or somehow make sure you get your break. Nurses tend be self-sacrificing people, but I need a break to give proper care. We have a clinic, and if we have emergencies, we have the ability to cancel scheduled people. I see nurses who seem to not want to cancel people, but later say how they missed their break and are hungry. But I just started canceling people whenever needed because of so many emergencies. You need to eat to function at your best.

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