I have blogged about these automatic deduction cases, but they nevertheless keep popping up with disturbing regularity.  In another example of this phenomenon, employees have sued a Michigan healthcare employer, alleging their lunch breaks were automatically deducted, yet they supposedly worked through their lunch breaks.  The cases are entitled Baldwin v. McLaren Lapeer Region and Williams v. McLaren Oakland and were filed in federal court in the Eastern District of Michigan.

The named plaintiffs, who are RNs, claimed they usually worked overtime.  They allege they were not paid for their lunches although the demands of their job, i.e., patient care, necessitated that they forego these lunches and work through them.  They also claim they were constantly interrupted during the lunches that they attempted to take, so these interruptions also undermined their supposed free lunch time, mandating payment of wages.

The named plaintiffs wish to represent all hourly, non-exempt employees who were working under the automatic lunch-time deduction policy for the previous three years.  It is noteworthy that the plaintiffs claim that the employer has been sued on five other occasions for these automatic deduction policies.  The employer has countered by vigorously denying any wrongdoing.  It has asserted that “the legal claims asserted in these cases are meritless, and the McLaren hospitals will vigorously defend against these frivolous lawsuits.”  

The Takeaway

By now, I would think that health care employers, which are the ones that predominantly use the automatic deductions, would have learned that some fail safe, or reporting system, is needed when employees claim they worked through lunch or actually did work through lunch. That would make this entire issue, or rather, problem, go away.

It really would…