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Have You Missed Your Lunch Break?

A Houston, Texas nurse has filed suit against her employer because she was not given her lunchbreaks.  Even though she worked when she should have been eating her lunch, she was NOT paid for that time.  She was deprived of her break and forced to work for free.

This facility had a policy that you only clocked in when you arrived at work and clocked out when your shift ended.  Their bookkeepers then would deduct the one-half hour lunch break from their payable time.

However, because of the staffing situation there, many nurses were neither getting their breaks nor getting paid for the additional work they provided to the facility.  It probably is no surprise that this practice is illegal.  Labor laws require nurses to get breaks, including one for lunch.

If you find that you are unable to take your lunch break, then you need to be paid for that time.  You should not be penalized because you were unable to take a lunch break due to your extra work in light of short-staffing or other valid reasons.

This claim evidently was brought forth by other Texas nurses who have successfully resolved their individual matters.

If your facility does not require you to clock in and out for lunch and circumstances prevent you from taking that break, make sure you let your supervisor know, in writing, of the situation and ensure that you are paid for your extra work.

The issue goes even deeper.  As nurses, you need a break.  The demands on you are high and you need that break for physical and mental relief.  Stress in your working environment for long periods is not healthy for you.

Getting away for a half-hour lunch break restores you physically and mentally as well as nutritionally.

As health care providers, we are so busy taking care of everybody else that we often overlook taking care of ourselves first.  Our cup needs to be full in order to provide for others.

If you’re not taking lunch breaks … why not?  What can you do about it?  Who can you talk to in order to make sure that your patients are covered so that it is safe for you to take a break from the unit?  Let me know what you plan to do about it if you are not getting your required and well-deserved breaks, especially at lunchtime.

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About Lorie A Brown, R.N., M.N., J.D.

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