Healthcare employers can expect the rise of class action lawsuits to continue, as 2019 has seen a steady influx of class actions against healthcare employers under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and various state wage-and-hour counterparts.
A hospital system is defending a class action suit filed by nurses in Oregon alleging that they were not given bona fide thirty-minute meal breaks. A similar class action lawsuit was recently filed in Texas federal court. Patient needs in long-term care and hospital settings can make it challenging for employers to allow employees to be relieved for extended periods of time from responding to emergencies or other patient issues. However, failing to establish policies and practices that allow for safe patient care and compliance with meal break laws can lead to costly litigation and severe business disruption.
After two years of litigation resulting in a $20 million settlement, a class of some 8,000 California nurses recently requested nearly $7 million in attorneys’ fees. Class counsel claims to have spent 5,000 hours litigating the case, and it is likely that the Court will award at least some, if not all, of the requested attorneys’ fees.
In sum, there are a variety of ways in which an employer can fall short in meeting its statutory wage-and-hour requirements. These issues can stem anywhere from unlawful corporate policies to local managers failing to properly enforce otherwise lawful policies. It is vital for healthcare administrators to evaluate company pay practices to avoid costly litigation that can last years and eat up hundreds of hours of employee work time.