New Jersey Nursing Assistants' FLSA Suit Moves Forward

New Jersey Nursing Assistants’ FLSA Suit Moves Forward

CAMDEN, N.J. — A federal court certified the class action suit filed by three nursing home assistants who claimed they were unlawfully deprived of overtime pay in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The court ruled that the plaintiffs may proceed with their proposed collective action against their employer, Alaris Health At Cherry Hill. They alleged that Alaris Health miscalculated their overtime compensation for hours worked in excess of 40 hours in a week and deducted pay for 30-minute meal breaks that they rarely took because of short staffing on the night shift.

Arbitration Issue

Alaris Health argued that the court should not certify the class action because the allegations made by the plaintiffs were contract-related and were required to be settled through arbitration. Alaris contended that the allegations were related to terms in the plaintiffs’ collective bargaining agreement and were therefore subject to that agreement’s arbitration provision.

However, the court ruled otherwise. It stated, based on established cases, that the arbitration provision of a collective bargaining agreement is enforceable when a dispute arises over the application or interpretation of a contract, but not when the dispute invokes a federal statute. In this case, the court found that the plaintiffs’ claims are FLSA-based violations and are not subject to arbitration.

Overtime Miscalculation and Unlawful Pay Deductions

The plaintiffs in this case claim that the defendant’s failure to include all of plaintiffs’ differential pay in its calculation of their regular rates resulted in the defendant paying them less than 1.5 times their regular rates for overtime hours. Under FLSA, payment of a shift bonus or shift differential is not required and is a matter for employers and employees to agree upon. However, if a shift differential such as the evening or night shift hours is paid to an employee, it must be added to the other remuneration used in determining the employee’s regular rate of pay.

Additionally, plaintiffs alleged that Alaris deducted pay for 30-minute meal automatically, even though those pay breaks were not taken. For those breaks to not count as work time, employees must be completely relieved from duty for the purpose of eating regular meals. If an employee does not work during some or all of his or her meal breaks, then an employer cannot deduct pay.

Employers cannot hide behind collective bargaining agreements to avoid FLSA overtime suits in court if FLSA is, in fact, implicated in a claim. Additionally, employers must be careful in their calculations of pay to ensure that wage rights are not violated. You should call (855) 754-2795 or complete the Free Unpaid Overtime Case Review form on the top right of this page if you believe your wages were unlawfully withheld due to an employer’s error or policy. Our top-rated team of wage lawyers will evaluate your situation to determine your best course of action. We will also determine if it is in your best interest to file a lawsuit against your employer. There are strict time limitations for filing, so it is important that you call our experienced attorneys today.

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