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December 11, 2009
Timekeeping Mistake over Meal Periods Costs Employer $1.7M

The Department of Labor's Wage and hour Division says a chain of hospitals in the St. Louis area violated the Fair Labor Standards Act by failing to pay nursing staff for meal periods that they were required to work.

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The division's investigators say SSM Health Care's timekeeping system automatically deducted time for meal periods whether the employees were fully relieved of their duties or not. Investigators say that the company failed to pay nursing staff time and one-half their regular rates for hours worked beyond 40 in a workweek.

The division found $1,738,133 in back wages due 4,007 employees. SSM Health Care has paid the back wages.

The FLSA requires that for an employer to be able deduct for meal periods, the employee must be completely relieved from duty for the purpose of eating their meals. The employee is not relieved if he/she is required to perform any duties, whether active or inactive, while eating and therefore should be compensated for time spent working.

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