Information contained in this publication is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or opinion, nor is it a substitute for the professional judgment of an attorney.
What started as a flurry of class actions against hospitals by a single law firm in the Northeast has now snowballed, with new cases being filed continuously by different firms across the country. In just the last month or so, four such class actions were filed against hospital systems in Tennessee, Illinois, and Florida. Each of the cases allege that the hospital systems violated the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) by automatically deducting a 30-minute meal break from employees' pay although the employees regularly work during the unpaid meal period. In addition to the claims relating to work performed during unpaid meal breaks, the plaintiffs in the Illinois and Florida cases also assert claims for unpaid off-the-clock work allegedly performed before and after their scheduled shifts, and assert claims under state law as well as the FLSA.
Whereas the first automatic meal-break class actions filed against hospital systems in upstate New York focused on nurses, the scope of the potential class proposed in these new class actions is much broader, encompassing all non-exempt employees subject to the automatic-deduction policy. In addition to nurses, one of the cases specifically refers to respiratory therapists, secretaries, housekeepers, custodians, clerks, porters, quality coordinators, medical coders, admissions officers, trainers, and transcriptionists, among others.
Given the continued proliferation – and expansion –of these types of lawsuits both geographically and in the size of the potential class of employees, hospital systems across the country are well-advised to consult with counsel to identify potential areas of vulnerability and consider steps they can take to reduce the risk of a class action.
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