Following up on President Obama’s decision to drastically increase the number of employees investigating Department of Labor claims, a new report claims that a large number of health care workers have not received proper payment for their work. Among the claims is that numerous hospitals have failed to pay nurses and administrative staff overtime for hours worked in excess of 40 hours a week. These violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act have sadly often gone unreported, causing workers to not receive fair compensation, and to push workers to work excessively burdensome shifts.
According to the Department of Labor, in New York alone, “fewer than 36 percent of health care employers investigated by its Albany office were in compliance with Federal wage and hour laws”. This figure is appallingly low, especially given that these are the people that are routinely trusted with our health and well-being. To not only make these individuals work in violation of the law and withhold their pay is not only egregious, it is outright dangerous.
Further, the investigations have revealed that many nurses and hospital staff members have been forced to go without their required meal periods, also in violation of New York and Federal laws. The New York Times found nurses who claimed that “If you brought your lunch from home or got food in the cafeteria and took it to the nursing unit, you would be interrupted by phone calls, by physicians and family members…”, demonstrating that these nurses rarely had their required break periods.
The Time’s findings is shocking given that these employees are charged with the saftey and health of the patients, but not surprising given trends in the employment sector lately. Employers will often take advantage of those most at risk– in this case nurses who are deeply concerned for the health of patients, and bank on employees not speaking up for fear of their jobs.