I work 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. at a small hospital. We were all notified with a letter last week that our hours are being changed to 6:45 p.m. to 7:15 p.m. Only the night shift hours are changing. The letter says that we will get one-hour break but only 30 minutes of it will be paid. We also will get three 15-minute breaks. We rarely, if ever, get a break because unlike on the day shift, there is no nurse who does break relief. Can they
Dear Nancy replies:
Your break time and how much of it will be paid is governed by your state law. A consultation with a nurse attorney or other attorney in your state would obtain answers for you and determine if the employer is abiding by the requirements of the law.
For example, your state may have specific regulations for providing workers with 10 or 15 minutes of break time every so many hours. Or, there may be no requirement in a state law for break times, but each employer provides them as it deems necessary. The same situation may be the case for the amount of paid break time an employee is granted.
If you want to research some preliminary information about break times, you can do so at (www.dol.gov/whd/state/meal.htm). The web page lists those states that provide meal and/or break periods for employers and what the requirements are for both periods.
The issue of not being able to take a break because no staff is available to relieve those who take a break is a concern you should bring to the attention of the nurse manager of your unit and the CNO of the facility. Not being able to take breaks can result in staff feeling tired and fatigued, and this can result in risks to patients and their safety. The facility should be concerned about this and attempt to provide coverage during break periods for staff of all shifts.