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Employer Not Required to Pay Nurses Overtime

May 19, 1999
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Related Topics: Wages and Hours, Featured Article
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Certain RNs working as home health care nurses were "professionals" paid on a "fee basis," thereby relieving their employer of its obligation to pay the nurses overtime for hours worked in excess of 40 per week. The federal district court’s determination turned on the "unique" aspects of the nurses’ duties.

Although the nurses had been receiving an agreed-upon sum for each patient visit, they argued that they were entitled to at least one and a half times their regular wage rate when they worked over 40 hours in a given work week. Professional employees paid on a salary or fee basis are exempt from the overtime requirements of the law.

Finding that the nurses were paid on a "fee basis," the court explained that payments are made on a fee basis when an agreed sum is paid for a single job regardless of the time required for its completion. Moreover, payments are made on a fee basis when payment is made for a job that is "unique" rather than "for a series of jobs that are repeated an indefinite number of times and for which payment on an identical basis is made over and over again."

Here, the RNs were responsible for assessing, planning, implementing and case-managing home care nursing. They treated home care patients, educated and trained them in the treatment and monitoring of their conditions, and coordinated treatment of these patients by various other health care providers, including aides, LPNs, therapists, and social workers.

Because each nurse was required to assess the individual patient’s circumstances and was charged with developing and implementing a plan of care unique to that particular patient, the court held that the nurses were clearly not performing a set job repeatedly. Instead, they were applying professional skill and judgment to each unique patient situation. Under these circumstances, the nurses were professional employees and were not entitled to overtime compensation under the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Cite: Fazekas v The Cleveland Clinic Health Care Ventures, Inc. (NDOhio) 137 LC 33,818. 29 C.F.R. §541.313(b).

SOURCE: CCH Incorporated is a leading provider of information and software for human resources, legal, accounting, health care and small business professionals. CCH offers human resource management, payroll, employment, benefits, and worker safety products and publications in print, CD, online, and via the Internet. For more information and other updates on the latest HR news, check our Web site at http://hr.cch.com/.

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