Montana Overtime and Meal & Rest Break Laws for Nurses

Under the Montana Code Annotated sections 39-3-405 and 39-3-406, employees are entitled to mandatory overtime pay if they work longer than 40 hours in one seven-day span- known as a “workweek.” The workweek typically begins on a Monday and lasts through the following Sunday- however, employers are free to define the workweek in other terms. Employers may not constantly manipulate and change the start and end dates of the work week in order to avoid paying overtime to workers. Montana law does not require an employer to compensate a worker with overtime pay if he or she works longer than eight hours in one given day as long as the total for the workweek does not exceed 40 hours. Section 39-3-406 offers specific exemptions to these provisions which may apply to the nursing profession. These exemptions include any person employed by non-profit organizations for partial reimbursement, apprentices, resident managers of assisted living facilities who live on the premises and those employed to provide companionship for the infirm, terminally ill who are employed by a family member of the ward.

The Montana code sections do not specifically designate that rest or meal breaks are mandatory. Since the state laws are unclear on the issue, the federal Fair Labor Standards Act will fill in the gaps to provide employers and employees with guidelines on employment and labor issues. Unfortunately, the FLSA does not currently require employers to provide meal or rest breaks for employees. However, if an employer opts to provide a short rest break (less than 20 minutes) the break must be paid. Meal breaks can be paid or unpaid if the employer decides to provide employees with the opportunity to eat during the shift. In certain fast-paced work environments, such as hospitals and emergency care centers, employers are within their rights to require employees to eat while on duty.
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