Pennsylvania Overtime and Meal & Rest Break Laws for Nurses

Under Title 43 of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes Annotated section 333.104(c) and Title 34 of the Pennsylvania Code section 231.41, employers must provide overtime pay for all workers who work in excess of 40 hours in one week. Overtime pay is calculated as one and one-half times the worker’s typical pay rate. State and federal code sections define the workweek as seven consecutive days typically commencing on Monday and concluding the following Sunday. Employers may alter the typical workweek to reflect a structure more congruent with their business but the employer may not manipulate the definition of the workweek to avoid paying overtime.

Pennsylvania does not currently have statutes with respect to meal and rest breaks that apply to nurses or any member of the medical profession. Therefore, the federal Fair Labor Standards Act will apply to employment situations in Pennsylvania. Unfortunately, the FLSA does not recognize any requirements on the part of the employer to provide meal or rest breaks unless the employer and employee agree to breaks in the employment contract. If employers agree to provide meal breaks, they may be unpaid. Employers may also require employees to eat while on duty- a practice that is common in emergency care facilities or other high-stress nursing positions. If an employer opts to provide short rest breaks (usually around 20 minutes in length) those breaks must be compensable.
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