Hackensack Meridian Health, a New Jersey healthcare network, has been hit with a Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) lawsuit concerning overtime pay and meal breaks. The lawsuit also alleges violations of New Jersey laws that are similar to the federal FLSA. The case is an unfortunate reminder that employers find numerous ways to cheat their employees out of their rights. Is your employer refusing to fairly compensate you or allow breaks that you are entitled to under the law? Our attorneys are ready to help.

What You Need to Know About Schelhas v. Hackensack Meridian Health Inc.

This lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey, alleges that Hackensack Meridian Health failed to pay its hourly workers the correct overtime rates. They did so, the plaintiff argues, by improperly excluding bonuses and shift differentials when calculating overtime. In addition, Meridian was accused of not affording its employees their proper meal breaks.

The case was initiated by an ex-employee who is requesting that the lawsuit become a class action. It was filed pursuant to the FLSA (the primary federal law that concerns overtime and related wage and hour issues) along with the New Jersey Wage and Hour Law and New Jersey Wage Theft Act.

With respect to overtime, the lawsuit claims Meridian paid its workers different hourly rates, or shift differentials, and bonuses depending on the type of shifts they worked. However, the company failed to include those differentials and bonuses when making its overtime calculations, effectively shorting employees. The FLSA requires that all non-exempt employees be paid time and a half, or 1.5 times their regular rate of pay, for all hours worked above 40 hours in a week. The regular rate of pay includes not only hourly wages and salaries but most bonuses and shift differentials.

As for the meal breaks, the employee claims that Meridian automatically deducted a 30-minute meal break each day from employees’ hours, even though the workers were required to remain on duty, were repeatedly interrupted and not relieved of their job responsibilities. Employees must be compensated for all time worked, including during so-called “breaks.” 

Overtime and Meal Break Abuses Are Common

Lawsuits such as this are fairly common because overtime and meal break abuses routinely happen in the medical, healthcare, and related industries. Despite strong federal and state protections for workers, many employers find ways to underpay their employees. These are a few other overtime and meal break problems that workers face in these industries:

  • Misclassification of an employee as exempt (meaning, not entitled to overtime pay)
  • Failure to pay overtime to employees under the 8 and 80 system, an arrangement that hospitals and other healthcare facilities may elect, but under which they must pay workers overtime for any hours worked over 8 in a workday and 80 in a 14-day period
  • The lack of a contract or understanding between the employer and employee to use the 8 and 80 system
  • Not totaling all hours worked in different departments or facilities
  • Doing “off-the-clock” work (before or after a shift) without including that time when calculating overtime

Have an Overtime or Meal Break Issue With Your Employer? Turn To Us

While employers are creative at finding ways to underpay their workers and violate their labor rights, our firm is familiar with such schemes. We also know how to hold employers liable for breaking the law and cheating their employees. Don’t be denied the fair pay you deserve. Contact us by filling out our free and confidential online client intake form today.

Michael Lore is the founder of The Lore Law Firm. For over 25 years, his law practice and experience extend from representing individuals in all aspects of labor & employment law, with a concentration in class and collective actions seeking to recover unpaid back overtime wages, to matters involving executive severance negotiations, non-compete provisions and serious personal injury (work and non-work related). He has handled matters both in the state and federal courts nationwide as well as via related administrative agencies. If you have any questions about this article, you can contact Michael by using our chat functionality.