DETROIT – The demands of the job sometimes require employees in the healthcare industry to work through their meal periods but as many employers – including Detroit Medical Center – learn eventually, federal law says these employees must be paid when their duties demand they work through or during meal periods.

A review of payroll records at VHS of Michigan Inc. ­– operating as Detroit Medical Center  ­–  by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division determined the facility failed to pay 13 employees for missed meal periods when their meal periods were interrupted or not taken because they were required to perform work.

Specifically, the division learned the employer deducted meal periods from employees’ paid time automatically and did not make proper adjustment for workers when they worked during their meal periods, which caused violations of the overtime requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act. The investigation found the violations were caused by the failure to adjust payroll procedures for recently transferred staff and an error in the facility’s payroll system that automatically deducted 30-minutes for meal periods. The employer has since made corrections to its payroll systems.

The division recovered $46,864 in back wages and damages to 13 affected VHS of Michigan workers.

“This case should remind all employers to verify and validate employee’s hours worked and to not rely solely on automated payroll systems,” said Wage and Hour District Director Timolin Mitchell in Detroit. “Healthcare workers provide essential services to help people in need but remain among our nation’s lowest-paid workers. They depend upon on every dollar earned to support themselves and their families.”

VHS of Michigan is owned by Tenet Health of Dallas which employs more than 100,000 workers at approximately 600 locations nationwide.

The division offers resources on wages rules for healthcare workers.

Learn more about the Wage and Hour Division, including a search tool to use if you think you may be owed back wages collected by the division and how to file an online complaint. For confidential compliance assistance, employees and employers can call the agency’s toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243), regardless of where they are from.

Download the agency’s new Timesheet App for iOS and Android devices – also available in Spanish – to ensure hours and pay are accurate.

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