The U.S. Department of Labor is stepping up its investigation of pay practices in the health care industry after discovering widespread violations by hospitals and nursing homes not paying overtime to nurses and other employees who work more than 40 hours a week.

Hospitals across the country have settled claims in the millions of dollars for back wages and are fighting class action law suits alleging overtime pay violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

Examples of cases resolved by the Labor Department include $1.7 million in back wages for 4,000 employees of hospitals and clinics run by SSM Health Care in St. Louis, Missouri, and $2.7 million in overtime back wages for 700 employees of Partners HealthCare System in Boston.

Under a proposed California class action settlement, Kaiser Permanente would pay $7.25 million to cases managers, registered nurse coordinators, and other medical workers.  Hundreds of health care employees in the Kaiser Permanente system have alleged that they were denied overtime pay because they were wrongfully classified as “exempt”.

The Labor Department is currently investigating assisted-living and group homes in Alabama and Mississippi and residential care facilities in Connecticut and Rhode Island for possible FLSA violations.  Health care industry employees such as nursing assistants, practical nurses, cooks, and janitors are particularly at risk for overtime pay and wage and hour violations.

For the full story, go to the New York Times.