E.D. Pa. Dismisses Nurses' Claims for Missed Meal Breaks

Essentially, the FLSA contains just two requirements for non-exempt employees: (1) that the employees be paid minimum wage; and (2) that they are compensated at a rate at least one and one-half times the regular rate for all time worked in excess of 40 hours in a workweek.

"Gap time" is not covered by the FLSA. Gap time is time worked but not paid. To qualify as gap time, the time worked must not: (1) put the employee in the over-40-hours-in-a-week category, which would trigger the overtime requirement; or (2) bring the employee's hourly rate below the minimum wage.

An example.

Assume Employee X's regular rate of pay is $20 per hour. Also assume that she worked 38 hours but was paid for only 36 hours in a given workweek. Thus, the employee was paid $720 ($20 x 36) but should have been paid $760 ($20 x 38).

The 2 hours unpaid constitutes "gap time." The employee may have a state-law claim to recover the unpaid $40 but the FLSA would not apply because the 2 hours would not put the employee over 40 hours and, even when the 2 hours are included, her regular rate is more than minimum wage ($720 / 38 = $18.95 per hour).

Gap-Time Claims and the FLSA

The issue of gap time is common in cases involving missed or interrupted meal breaks and in cases of pre- and post-shift work performed before or after the employee clocks in or out. Where an employee alleges that her time was deducted to account for a break but that she did not actually take the break, she is likely to have nor more than a couple of hours a week of unpaid time. And, many times, these 2 or 3 hours is not sufficient to bump the employee into overtime. Thus, they are gap-time claims not properly brought under the FLSA.

In a decision issued yesterday by the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, the court dismissed six related collective action lawsuits brought by registered nurses who alleged they had not been properly paid for training, pre- and post-shift work, and missed meal breaks.

In the order, the court explained that, since the nurses were suing under the overtime provisions of the FLSA, they had to allege that they had worked more than 40 hours in a workweek and that they had not been paid for that time. Instead, the nurses had alleged only that they had worked and not been paid--but failed to allege that the additional time worked put them into the over-40-hours-in-a-week category. In other words, the nurses had alleged only a claim for gap time, which was not a proper claim under the FLSA.

Lynn v. Jefferson Health Sys., Inc., No. 2:09-cv-05549 (E.D. Pa. Aug. 8, 2012)

Read more Labor and Employment Law insights from Margaret (Molly) DiBianca in the Delaware Employment Law Blog.  

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