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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Sacred Heart nurses not due overtime pay

The Washington Court of Appeals has ruled that registered nurses at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center are not entitled to overtime pay when their duties prevent them from taking their contract-provided 15-minute daily breaks.

The ruling, issued Thursday by the court’s Division III, overturned a Spokane court’s ruling that the nurses were entitled to overtime compensation for the break time not taken.

The dispute goes back to 2004. After a grievance was filed by the nurses union, Sacred Heart created a time-management system that provided an additional quarter-hour of salary for every skipped work break.

Later the nurses argued that the missed breaks entitled them to a portion of overtime, not just straight time.

A Spokane Superior Court judge ruled in their favor and ordered Sacred Heart to pay more than $327,000 in damages, lost wages and legal costs.

The hospital appealed the ruling.

Thursday’s ruling agreed with the hospital and said the break times not taken fell within the normal 40-hour workweek, and the missed breaks did not require the nurses to exceed a normal workweek.

Appellate Judge Steven Brown dissented. While he agreed with the lower-court ruling in favor of the nurses, he noted that he didn’t agree with its award of double damages.