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Appeals court sides with nursing assistants in overtime claim

California employees who are subject to a collective bargaining agreement could still have protection under the Fair Labor Standards Act. A ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit highlighted the protections applied by the FLSA in a dispute between certified nursing assistants and a nursing facility regarding overtime pay and unpaid breaks.

The employees asserted that their employer had violated the FLSA as well as state wage and hours laws and failed to pay them for 30-minute meal breaks although they frequently worked when trying to eat meals. At the trial level, the employer had tried to get the case dismissed because the employees' claim should have gone to arbitration. The employer cited the terms of the collective bargaining agreement although it did not specifically require that FLSA disputes go through arbitration.

The appeals court ruled that the bargaining agreement did not overrule an employer's obligation to follow FLSA laws. Although arbitration clauses are common in collective bargaining contracts, the court decided that a CBA does not necessarily deny employees the right to address FLSA disputes outside of arbitration.

A person who suspects that an employer owes unpaid overtime or otherwise violated the Fair Labor Standards Act could gain more information from an attorney who has employment law experience. Unlike Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which falls under the jurisdiction of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the FLSA is administered and enforced by the Department of Labor. The claims process is somewhat different, which is why having legal assistance might be advisable.

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