Nobody may work harder, and nobody may have more job satisfaction, than a nurse. But with all of those hours put in, do nurses generally qualify for overtime pay, or are they exempted under the FLSA?
The answer to that question may depend on what kind of nurse you are, what
your duties are, what your educational background is, and how much money
you are paid. A July 2008 advisory letter from the US Department of Labor
lays out all of the various considerations in deciding whether or not
a nurse should receive overtime.
It will probably be a close question for registered nurses. Many of them are paid on an hourly, rather than on a salary, basis. Usually, a main threshold test for whether or not an employee is exempt from overtime pay is: salary, no overtime; hourly wage, yes overtime.
But a registered nurse is highly educated and, if the nurse is registered under state law, she may be exempt under the learned professional exemption.
For that exemption to be in effect, the nurse’s job has to meet the following qualifications in. If not, overtime may be due:
The employee must be compensated on a salary or fee basis (as defined in the regulations) at a rate not less than $455 per week;
The employee’s primary duty must be the performance of work requiring advanced knowledge, defined as work which is predominantly intellectual in character and which includes work requiring the consistent exercise of discretion and judgment;
The advanced knowledge must be in a field of science or learning; and
The advanced knowledge must be customarily acquired by a prolonged course of specialized intellectual instruction.
There are also a number of other kinds of nurses, including LPNs, who will probably qualify for overtime. The DOL has found that they generally do not qualify as exempt learned professionals, regardless of work experience and training, because possession of a specialized advanced academic degree is not a standard prerequisite for entry into such occupations. They would therefore be entitled to overtime pay.
Since each situation will need to be determined on a case-by-case basis, questions about overtime for nurses should be directed to a local employment attorney.