FAQs About Nurses Working Overtime During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Vaughn – Nurses And Overtime(1)

The rapid spread of the novel coronavirus COVID-19 across the US has put enormous demands on our health care system, requiring physicians, nurses, first responders, and other providers to serve long hours in challenging conditions. Medical professionals will never complain as they deliver essential care to those that need it, but many – especially nurses – are wondering if and how they’ll be compensated for overtime. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) does require employers to pay additional wages when a qualifying employee works excessive hours; at the same time, the current emergency situation raises concerns about mandatory overtime for nurses.

If you’re a nurse and you have concerns regarding FLSA requirements and laws on overtime, a Georgia wage, hour, and overtime attorney can provide specific details on your situation. Some answers to common questions about nursing and COVID-19 may also be helpful.

  1. What is the default rule regarding payment of overtime to employees? In sum, the FLSA requires employers to pay 1.5 times the regular wage for every hour an employee works in excess of 40 hours per work week. However, the law doesn’t apply to certain categories of workers. As such, an employer does NOT need to pay the overtime rate to exempt employees, including:
  • Corporate executives;
  • Workers in administrative positions;
  • Professionals;
  • Those in outside sales; and,
  • Some employees working in computers and technology.
  1. Is nursing an exception, i.e., are nurses exempt employees? From the above, you can see it’s not clear on the status of nurses. To further explain, the Department of Labor (DOL) has prepared a Fact Sheet on nurses under the FLSA, which puts some in the category of “learned professional.” For an employer to be legally justified in NOT paying you overtime, you must:
  • Receive compensation on a salary basis at a rate of not less than $684 per week; AND,
  • Be engaged in work that requires advanced knowledge as your primary duty.
  1. Am I a learned professional in my position as a nurse? The key to answering this question is focusing on what constitutes “advanced knowledge.” Factors listed in the DOL Fact Sheet explain that advanced knowledge:
  • Generally encompasses tasks involving exercise of discretion and judgment;
  • Involves training and skill in a field of science; and,
  • Is acquired through a course of specialized instruction, such as a nursing school.

From these factors, you can see that determining whether you’re a learned professional as a nurse – and therefore not eligible for overtime pay – is very fact-specific.

  1. What about the ban on mandatory overtime for nurses in Georgia? Another consideration that affects nursing work during a crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic is the Nurse Involuntary Mandatory Overtime Act. This statute prohibits employers from forcing you to work overtime beyond your regularly scheduled hours. Still, there are some exceptions to this rule, such as in the event of an emergency. The current pandemic does constitute an emergency, having been declared as such by all levels of federal, state, and local government. As such, you may be required to work overtime, but can earn overtime if you meet the test described above.

Contact a Georgia Wage, Hour, and Overtime Lawyer Right Away
You’re on the front lines as a nurse during the COVID-19 pandemic, which is why it’s essential that you get fair wages and proper treatment under FLSA, the mandatory overtime statute, and related laws. Our team at the Vaughn Law Firm will protect your rights and interests during these challenging times, so please contact our Decatur, GA office if you’re facing a dispute with your employer. You can call 877.615.9495 or check out our website to set up a free consultation, which we can conduct remotely by phone or video conferencing technology.