Overtime Rules for Nurses

The Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) regulations have become more restrictive with respect to nurses and overtime. Fewer nurses are now entitled to overtime under current Department of Labor regulations interpreting the FLSA. However, there are some important rules to remember.

In general, Registered Nurses (“RNs”) who are paid a salary that meets certain requirements (at least $455/week) are exempt from overtime under the learned professional exemption. As the regulation puts it:

Registered nurses who are registered by the appropriate State examining board generally meet the duties requirements for the learned professional exemption. Licensed practical nurses and other similar health care employees, however, generally do not qualify as exempt learned professionals because possession of a specialized advanced academic degree is not a standard prerequisite for entry into such occupations.

See 29 C.F.R. § 541.301(e)(2)

The regulations previously excluded RNs from the professional exemption. See, e.g., 29 C.F.R. § 541.314(b)(3) (1973); Brock v. Superior Care, Inc., 840 F.2d 1054, 1061 n. 1 (2d Cir.1988) (holding that § 541.3(e) does not apply to nurses); Harrison v. Washington Hosp. Ctr., 1979 WL 1923, at *2-*3 (D.D.C.1979) (same).

However, there are two key exemptions:

(1) So-called “practical nurses” are generally entitled to overtime whether or not they are paid a salary. The academic requirements involved in becoming a practical nurse are fewer than for an RN.  Here’s a more detailed explanation of the difference between a practical and registered nurse.

(2) Importantly, an RN who is paid hourly is entitled to overtime. 29 C.F.R. § 541.600(e) states that doctors are exempt from overtime even if they are paid hourly, but this exception specifically does not apply to “pharmacists, nurses, therapists, technologists, sanitarians, dietitians, social workers, psychologists, psychometrists, or other professions which service the medical profession.” Consequently, any nurse paid hourly is entitled to overtime.

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