In the latest chapter in the series of cases brought throughout New York State involving compensation of Registered Nurses and other hospital medical support staff, Judge Norman A. Mordue recently rejected plaintiffs’ assertion that, by allegedly failing to include time spent working during meal periods in Plaintiffs’ hours worked, the hospital “deducted” from the plaintiffs’ wages within the meaning of New York Labor Law 193. Church v. St. Mary's Healthcare, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 138338 (N.D.N.Y Sept. 25, 2012).
In dismissing the cause of action under New York Labor Law 193, New York’s recently-amended deduction statute, the court did not rule with finality on the merits of all plaintiffs’ claims for uncompensated off-the-clock work under the FLSA and New York Labor Law. However, the court rejected plaintiff’s Labor Law 193 theory, stating the “crux of plaintiffs' claim is that defendant failed to pay them for the hours they worked during meal breaks. Section 193, however, prohibits employers from making unlawful deductions from employees' wages and does not govern deductions from the number of hours worked.” Id. at *10.
Claims based on alleged working but unpaid meal periods remain common in health care and other industries, particularly where an “auto deduct” practice is utilized. Church is a welcome decision for New York employers, in the industry and otherwise, but does not diminish the exposures which can result from failing to properly compensate employees for all time worked.