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$1.8 million settlement in the works for Menorah Medical Center nurses who were shorted pay

SEIUprotest-2.jpg
Carlos Moreno
/
KCUR
Members of the SEIU bargaining committee chanting slogans outside Menorah Medical Center in July 2020.

The nurses alleged Menorah altered their time sheets to prevent them from being paid for all the hours they worked.

A federal judge has indicated he will approve a $1.8 million settlement that would resolve a dispute by registered nurses at Menorah Medical Center over docked pay.

U.S. District Judge Daniel Crabtree found that the proposed settlement was fair and reasonable. But he declined to approve one settlement term that he said prevented him from approving the settlement as a whole.

He invited the plaintiffs to renew their request for approval by filing an amended settlement agreement — presumably without the offending settlement term.

The case was filed in July 2019 by nurses who worked for four different Menorah divisions. They alleged Menorah altered their time sheets to prevent them from being paid for all the hours they worked.

Specifically, they claimed that Menorah routinely adjusted their clock-in and clock-out times to prevent rounding in their favor. They also alleged they were expected to take 30-minute unpaid meal breaks on each of their shifts and were “encouraged” to take meal breaks only when “patient care needs” permitted them to do so.

If the settlement is ultimately approved by Crabtree, the plaintiffs’ attorneys would receive 30% of the settlement amount, or $540,000 – a standard percentage in settled cases.

The nurses would receive amounts ranging from $575 to $1,800 each, depending on which Menorah division they worked for.

An attorney for the plaintiffs did not respond to requests for comment. A spokesperson for HCA Midwest Health, which operates Menorah, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The settlement term standing in the way of Crabtree’s approval concerned so-called service awards totaling $36,000 to the three nurses who brought the suit. The money is meant to compensate them for the time and effort they devoted to the litigation and the risks they undertook.

In exchange for Menorah’s agreement not to contest the service awards, they agreed to release any and all claims against Menorah. Crabtree, however, said that release was overly broad and he could not approve it.

He said courts should approve such service awards based only on the plaintiffs’ prosecution of the lawsuit and the risks they undertook, and not in return for a general release of claims against the defendants.

As a reporter covering breaking news and legal affairs, I want to demystify often-complex legal issues in order to expose the visible and invisible ways they affect people’s lives. I cover issues of justice and equity, and seek to ensure that significant and often under-covered developments get the attention they deserve so that KCUR listeners and readers are equipped with the knowledge they need to act as better informed citizens. Email me at dan@kcur.org.
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