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Is it a violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act for RNs to be denied rest and/or meal breaks during their shift?

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Question:

Dear Nancy,

I have been reading in this magazine and others about nurses who work at the bedside. It seems that they are expected not to take break or to take time for a meal. Isn’t this a violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act?

Stephen

Dear Nancy replies:

Dear Stephen,

The Fair Labor Standards Act, a federal law, does not require meal breaks or rest periods. Rather, a respective state law, if one exists, would cover these breaks. You can learn more about the FSLA on its FAQ page: http://webapps.dol.gov/dolfaq/dolfaq.asp.

You also can learn more about which states do have requirements for meal breaks and rest periods. On the FAQ page, click on the link on the right, “When must breaks and meal periods be given?” The next page provides the answer to that question, along with two links that you can click to find more specific information about breaks and state laws. Clicking on each link and then on your state within the links (on the maps of the U.S. that appear) will provide you with information about state requirements for meal periods and breaks.

Cordially,
Nancy

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About Author

Nancy J. Brent, RN, MS, JD, is an attorney in private practice in Wilmette, Ill. This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as legal or any other advice. The reader is encouraged to seek the advice of an attorney or other professional when an opinion is needed.

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