Nurse Sues Rehab Center for Unpaid, Interrupted Meal Breaks on 12 ½ hour Shifts

Last week, a nurse sued a rehabilitation center for automatically deducting 30-minute meal breaks from her and other employees’ wages, even though their breaks were routinely interrupted to care for patients.  

The Center at Lincoln, a rehabilitation center in Colorado, “serves patients needing physical rehabilitation and/or complex nursing care.”  For example, the Center at Lincoln provides care for patients who need frequent monitoring – such as patients with breathing or feeding tubes – and rehabilitation services for patients who need help with daily tasks such as showering, grooming, daily hygiene, dressing, cleaning, cooking and laundry.  

According to the lawsuit, the named plaintiff, Celine Commisiong, worked for The Center at Lincoln as both a certified nursing assistant (CNA) and licensed practical nurse (LPN).  Her primary duties included providing patient care, monitoring residents, checking vitals, assisting with physical therapy, responding to emergencies and assisting doctors.  

During her employment, Ms. Commisiong alleges working 12.5-hour shifts for at least three to five days a week, for a total of 37.5 to 62.5 or more hours per week. 

The Center at Lincoln allegedly required Ms. Commisiong and other workers to stay on premises during meal breaks and carry their cell phones with them so the company could contact them at any time.  According to the lawsuit, Ms. Commisiong and other workers’ breaks were constantly interrupted to provide patient care.  

Moreover, Ms. Commision alleges that she repeatedly complained to The Center at Lincoln about the interruptions and that The Center at Lincoln knew, or should have known, that she and other workers were working during the meal breaks without pay. 

This lawsuit is a typical example of how automatic meal break deductions can cause wage violations.  The nursing field may be prone to this kind of violation because nurses often have to attend to patients at a moment’s notice, but employees in other fields should consider whether they are receiving uninterrupted meal breaks or being paid for their work on breaks. 

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About Finn W. Dusenbery

Finn Dusenbery's practice is focused on employment litigation. Finn is an associate in the firm's New York Office.

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