The real question: are LPNs entitled to overtime?
**It’s important to note, in many states, a nurse who works under a registered nurse (RN) or physician, are referred to as licensed practical nurses (LPNs). However, in California and Texas, they are referred to as licensed vocational nurses or LVNs. For the purpose of this article, LVNs in California and Texas will be interchangeable with LPNs.
The answer is, YES. The majority of practical nurses are entitled to overtime pay. At one point, LPNs used to be exempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act under the “companionship” exemption. As of January 1, 2015 the Department of labor changed that.
Federal officials extended overtime to the majority of nurses who work in private homes, known as in-home health care. Therefore, every LPN who works in a private home but is employed through a third party, is now entitled to overtime, the minimum wage, and other FLSA benefits.
Overtime for LPNs
Extra hours are dependent upon how much you make regularly. If you are paid an hourly wage, your overtime becomes one-and-a-half times that for any hours over 40 in a week.
Oftentimes these calculations are specific. For example, if you were to receive a bonus during the same time you receive overtime in the same week, the bonus may be included in calculating the overtime wages.
Three-step Test to Determine Overtime Pay
Some nurses, mainly RNs, are exempt from the FLSA wage and hour protections because they have more extensive and formal education than an LPN. An advanced degree isn’t required to work as an LPN, so they do not fall under the “learned professional” exemption.
However, in rare circumstances, an LPN can be properly classified as a “professional” according to federal law. Professionals aren’t necessarily entitled to overtime pay. Below is how you can determine if you are exempt or not.
- You are salaried
If you are paid a predetermined amount for each pay period, regardless of how much you work in a week, you may be exempt from the FLSA overtime requirements. In many cases, that amount cannot be reduced for any reason. If you work for a week, you need to be paid for that week. Employers are unable to call you a “salaried employee” and reduce your salary based on the quality (or quantity) of your work. If they do, then you need to reach out to our lawyers.
- You make at least $455 per week
If you are salaried, it cannot amount to less than $455 every workweek.
- Advanced Knowledge
In order to be considered a “learned professional” your primary duties need to require advanced knowledge; mainly need to be “intellectual” in nature; require a consistent exercise of “independent judgment.”
When the FLSA refers to “advanced knowledge” it is referring to the acquisition of knowledge “by a prolonged course of specialized intellectual instruction.” Many courts in the United States use advanced degrees beyond an undergraduate, as a guide.
Common LPN Overtime Scams
Those who work in the nursing profession are incredibly vulnerable to wage and hour violations. Below are three common scams that may indicate your employer is stealing hard-earned time and money right from your paycheck.
- Working Through Breaks
It’s a fairly common practice in health care to deduct the length of a break from hours worked. It’s not entirely illegal, as long as your employer is taking into account the breaks you have to work through. This happens more often than not, and many nurses end up working through their breaks while not getting paid for it. Every minute needs to be counted towards your hours and overtime wage.
- Nurses Are Ineligible for Overtime
It is not uncommon for LPNs to have been lied to directly by their employer about their exemption status. Many nurses have been told that because they work in the healthcare industry, they are ineligible for overtime. The “learned professional” exemption is pretty narrow, as we mentioned before, and rarely ever applies to LPNs.
- Home or Hospital
Some employers in the healthcare arena used to classify LPNs who worked with elderly or disabled patients as exempt under the FLSA “companionship” exemption.
Whether you work in a home or hospital, these exemptions no longer apply. In new guidance from the Department of Labor Wage & Hour Division, “Trained personnel such as nurses, whether registered or practical, are not exempt from minimum wage and overtime under the exemption for companions, but registered nurses may be exempt as professionals.”
This is a relatively large change to an already complex and ambiguous law. Furthermore, it’s unclear whether or not the vast majority of employers are in compliance. This means that some LPNs that work in private homes may not be earning overtime.