Certified nursing assistants perform some of the grunt work that helps hospitals and other health care facilities provide quality care to patients. Working under the direction of registered nurses, CNAs might take a patient's vital signs, such as their temperature, pulse and blood pressure. They might feed, bathe and dress patients, or perform housekeeping chores. Employment laws that cover CNAs are both similar to and distinct from those covering other laborers.


Minimum wage laws that apply to certified nursing assistants are the same as for any occupation. As of May 2011, the federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour. Some states have higher minimum wages, and hospitals and other employers in those states must follow the state wage law if it is more beneficial to employees. Since federal labor laws cover all hospitals and most other health care facilities, the federal minimum wage covers hospital employees in states with lower minimum wages or no minimum wage.


Certified nursing assistants receive 1.5 times their hourly wage for all labor that exceeds 40 hours for a workweek. Employers might not owe registered nurses overtime pay because RNs are "learned professionals," according to the United States Department of Labor regulations, and thus might be exempt from overtime pay coverage under federal labor laws. CNAs, as well as licensed practical nurses, do not have an exemption as a learned professional and thus have a right to overtime pay.


CNAs may be subject to different schedules for the purpose of determining overtime. Instead of using a single 40-hour workweek, as is standard in most industries, health care facilities such as hospitals can pay overtime to employees when they exceed 80 hours during a two-week span. These employees also must receive overtime pay when working more than eight hours a day. Employees must agree to this alternative overtime tracking method in advance. Although health care facilities can use both the 40-hour week and the "8 and 80" system for different employees, they must apply only one or the other to each individual employee.


Employers can schedule certified nursing assistants to work any number of hours based on federal labor laws. At the time of publication, 16 states had laws or regulations limiting mandatory overtime, but CNAs in those states should check whether their state's rules apply only to registered nurses and licensed practical nurses or cover CNAs as well. The laws limit employers' ability to schedule mandatory overtime except in legitimate emergencies. States with laws and regulations include Arkansas, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Hampshire, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, Washington, West Virginia, California and Missouri. Bills are pending in Florida, Massachusetts and Vermont.