Hospitals and other medical service providers continue to face waves of wage-and-hour claims concerning meal break practices, with non-exempt care providers alleging that they were unable to take unpaid meal periods, or that those meal periods were otherwise compensable. A new decision from Judge Jeffrey L. Schmehl of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania rejects a claim of the latter category. Bosler v. Bio-Medical Applications of Pa., 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 13026 (E.D. Pa. Feb. 3, 2015).

In Bosler, plaintiffs were RNs and Dialysis Technicians who claimed that because they were unable to leave defendant’s premises and remained “on call” during meal periods, their meal periods became compensable under company policy and the Pennsylvania Wage Payment and Collection Law (“WPCL”). The Court, observing that the WPCL does not create independent causes of action, only a mechanism for enforcement of contractual obligations to pay wages, rejected plaintiffs’ claims on two grounds: 1) the inclusion of an appropriate handbook disclaimer stating that defendant’s handbook did not create a contract of any kind with employees; and, in addition and alternatively 2) the handbook contained no agreement to pay for such meal periods, as they were expressly excluded from the concept of “hours worked.” As this language demonstrated there was no agreement to pay for such time, plaintiffs’ quasi-contractual unjust enrichment claim also was dismissed.

Classification and proper wage payment for RNs and other skilled healthcare industry employees remains a challenge under the FLSA and, in particular, state law.