Federal Judge Rules for Nurses in Multi-Million Dollar Class Action for Unpaid Overtime

By:  Jerrold J. Wohlgemuth

A federal judge in Pennsylvania has signed off on a multi-million dollar settlement of a class action lawsuit for unpaid overtime brought by registered nurses against a number of hospitals affiliated with the Lehigh Valley Hospital and Health Network.  The nurses claimed in their lawsuit, which was filed in January 2010, that the Hospitals violated the FLSA and Pennsylvania wage law by paying them on a per-shift basis, failing to compensate them for reporting early or remaining on duty after their shifts ended, and also failing to pay for work performed during lunch periods or while attending training.  The $4.5 million settlement provides more than $2.5 million to the more than 2,000 nurses who joined in the lawsuit.  This is a significant development for hospitals and other health care providers who pay nurses on a per-shift basis.  While Pennsylvania and New Jersey have enacted statutes which prohibit mandatory overtime for nurses, the laws allow nurses to volunteer for extra hours and to work overtime in emergencies or unforeseen circumstances.  Nurses are entitled to overtime pay in such circumstances whenever they work more than 40 hours in a week.