Despite legislators’ best attempts at writing clear laws without loopholes, many laws are still subject to different interpretations by different courts. One proposed class action that was rejected by a lower court in 2013 has recently been revived by a three-judge panel in a California appellate court.
The class action lawsuit alleges Aurora Behavior Health Care Inc., which operates two psychiatric hospitals, allegedly maintained policies which made it impossible for its nurses to take all their meal and rest breaks as required under California labor law.
In California, all hourly employees are entitled to one paid uninterrupted rest break of at least ten minutes for every four hours of work. For every five hours worked, employees are entitled to one unpaid, uninterrupted meal break lasting at least half an hour. For every day an employee does not take one of these breaks, for any reason, she is entitled to one hour’s worth of pay, in addition to all wages and bonuses earned that day.
The class action lawsuit alleges the hospitals had a policy that required having at least two employees on active duty at any one time, but it allegedly did not have the staff to maintain this policy and allow for employees’ breaks throughout the day. This meant employees were often required to work through their breaks in violation of California labor law.
The lawsuit also alleges the hospital had a policy of allowing nurses to take a meal break half way through their shift. Since most nurses work 12-hour shifts, this would mean a meal break after six hours, not after five hours, as required by California law. A 12-hour shift, under state law, would also make the nurses eligible for two meal breaks before the end of their shifts, which were allegedly not provided.
The lawsuit also alleges the hospital discouraged staff from claiming overtime, leaving nurses to fill out mandatory paperwork on their own time. They were also allegedly denied reimbursement for business expenses.
In 2013, the lower court dismissed the proposed class action lawsuit on the grounds that it found no fault with the hospital’s policies and found too much variance in the reasons stated by the plaintiffs for why they missed their breaks.
The appellate court revived the lawsuit, saying the hospital was chronically and intentionally understaffed, which resulted in the nurses missing their meal and rest breaks in violation of California labor law. The court also noted that nurses allegedly were given little choice in skipping their breaks, as the alternative meant the possibility of losing their jobs.
The current class action overtime lawsuit was initially filed in 2009, when plaintiffs were looking to include about 1,000 nurses and healthcare providers in the class.
Aurora Behavioral Health continues to insist it did nothing illegal, that its policies were within accordance with the relevant labor laws, and that the plaintiffs received most of their meal and rest breaks, and in some instances, were paid for the breaks they missed. But the law requires employees to be provided all their breaks, and to be compensated every time a break is missed.
The Chicago and Oak Brook class action attorneys at the Chicago Overtime Law Center are investigating unpaid overtime claims against hospitals, senior and assisted living centers and large doctor and dental practices and chains for erasing or altering time sheets or time records, pressuring workers not to report or record overtime, and otherwise failing to pay workers for overtime and other wages. If you are the victim this practice call us at (312) 869-4095 or contact us online by filling in the form at the side of this blog.
The Chicago unpaid overtime lawyers at the Chicago Overtime Law Center have decades of experience fighting for wage earner’s rights. We have a team of Chicago unpaid overtime attorneys who focus on nationwide class action lawsuits and work out of Chicago and Oak Brook offices and prosecute claims for workers all over the Chicago area including Waukegan and North Chicago. We protect unpaid workers who haven’t received overtime throughout the Chicago area including in DuPage, McHenry Kane and Cook Counties.
Our Gurnee and Aurora overtime lawyers are intimately familiar with the issues that arise during wage claim litigation, and we know the laws that govern overtime cases well. Many employers misclassify employees as being exempt from overtime laws and pay workers salaries instead of hourly wages in order to avoid paying them overtime. Some employers mistakenly classify employees as exempt and others intentionally do so in order to circumvent the law. In either case, workers do not receive the wages they should, and a lawsuit may be the only way to recover their earned wages.
The Chicago Overtime Law Center is based in Chicago and represents clients throughout the country who have not been paid for the overtime hours that they worked. If you believe that you are owed overtime wages, contact one of our Chicago class action attorneys by phone at (312) 869-4095 or through our online form.