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.
The wage and hour class action epidemic spread last week to New York City metropolitan area hospitals and healthcare employers when a plaintiffs’ class action firm that has been targeting healthcare employers along the East Coast filed 22 class and collective actions in New York federal and state courts.
The range of employers named in these cases is extensive and includes some of New York’s most notable healthcare institutions. In addition to the hospital systems named in the caption of the complaints, the lawsuits also name hundreds of other healthcare facilities that the plaintiffs allege are subsidiary, joint or affiliated organizations throughout the entire New York metropolitan area, including community hospitals, rehabilitation centers, clinics, laboratories, research institutions, veterans’ hospitals, psychiatric hospitals, drug and alcohol rehabilitation facilities, adult day care facilities, fertility centers, and other specialized institutions for diagnosis, care and treatment of conditions such as AIDs, Alzheimer’s Disease, epilepsy, cardiac and vascular disease, pediatric diseases, cancer and blood disorders, and many other types of illness or disease. Some of the cases also name the president and/or CEO of the healthcare institution as individual defendants.
The plaintiffs’ attorneys have taken a broad brush approach to pleading their claims, filing suit simultaneously in federal and state court and asserting a myriad of statutory and common law claims. The state court class claims include alleged violations of New York state wage law, breach of implied and express oral contracts and the covenant of good faith & fair dealing, quantum meruit, unjust enrichment, fraud, negligent misrepresentation, conversion, failure to keep accurate records, and estoppel. The federal court actions assert class claims for violation of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act. The plaintiffs in the federal and state actions allege that their employers use computerized timekeeping systems that automatically deduct time from employees’ paychecks for daily meal periods even when employees worked during that time. The plaintiffs also claim they were not paid for time spent working before and/or after their scheduled shifts.
The firm that filed these new class actions has targeted more than 100 healthcare systems in 48 states, the Virgin Islands and Guam. They began filing class and collective actions asserting automatic meal deduction claims against hospital systems in Rochester, New York, in 2008. In 2009, they filed virtually identical actions against healthcare employers in Syracuse, Utica, and Buffalo, New York; Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and Boston, Massachusetts. Now they have moved to the New York City area.
To gather plaintiffs and information about hospital systems in their target areas, the firm sends letters to nurses and other hospital employees whose names and addresses they obtain from nurses registries and other publicly available licensing registries. The letters state that the firm is investigating the individual’s employer for failing to pay for time worked during meal periods, and that employees may be owed back wages. The firm also has a website -- www.hospitalovertime.com -- which provides similar information. Both the letters and the website contain an information form that the individual may complete to provide their name, social security number, and dates of employment at healthcare institutions.
The firm will likely continue to file wage and hour class and collective actions against many, if not all, of the hospitals and healthcare employers it has identified as “under investigation.” In addition, other plaintiffs’ attorneys have also started filing similar wage and hour class and collective actions against hospitals in recent months. As a result, healthcare employers across the country can anticipate that cases of this kind will spread to their areas as well. If there is any good news it is that healthcare employers are being provided with advance notice of the nature of the claims and the opportunity to implement proactive measures to mitigate their risk. More actions are likely coming; the only question is what city and area will be next?
This entry was written by Gregory Keating, Lisa Schreter, and Robert Wolff