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 rash of class action lawsuits recently filed against healthcare systems across the nation have, for the most part, focused on timekeeping systems that automatically deduct 30 minutes for meal breaks. Now plaintiffs’ lawyers are adding additional claims to wage and hour class actions against healthcare providers, including claims for off-the-clock work allegedly performed at home when employees are off duty.
In response to the new wave of class and collective actions, many healthcare employers are reviewing their existing policies and procedures to ensure that employees are properly reporting missed or interrupted meal periods. These efforts are reducing the risks associated with class actions. But, as often is the case in class action litigation, plaintiffs’ lawyers are seeking to expand the types of overtime claims they assert. A recent case filed in federal court in the Western District of Pennsylvania on behalf of hospital service coordinators, Richardson v. UPMC Health System is an example. As is typical in the wage and hour class and collective action lawsuits that are sweeping the nation, the plaintiff alleges potential class members perform unpaid pre-and post-shift work and are subject to an automatic deduction of 30 minutes for meal breaks, even when they work through part or all of the break. In addition to these claims, however, plaintiff also asserts that the service coordinators perform work at home, including preparing progress notes and other paperwork, for which they are not paid.
Lawsuits alleging “work from home” overtime claims are not new. They are not, however, typical of the wage and hour claims that have been asserted against healthcare systems. It remains to be seen whether this attempt to expand wage and hour actions against healthcare employers will meet with any success. Nevertheless, this attempt to articulate a new area of attack against healthcare employers means a need for increased vigilance over the payroll practices and work habits of employees, even those involved in direct patient care. To mitigate the risk of this potential “add on” claim, employers may want to consider policies and procedures that prohibit employees from working at home or off-site without prior supervisory approval, and requiring employees to provide signed verification that their weekly time records reflect all time worked, including any time spent working at home or off-site. Employers also should consider training or retraining employees on their timekeeping policies and procedures and providing a robust internal complaint procedure for employees who believe their wages are incorrect.
This entry was written by Michele Malloy.