Despite the recent trend of successes in decertifying wage and hour class actions in healthcare and other sectors, the number of lawsuits seeking to certify class actions in the healthcare industry continues to grow. As a result, we also continue to see settlement of these costly and time consuming lawsuits. In one recent case, U.S. Nursing Corp. has agreed to pay $1.77 million to quickly settle claims that it failed to pay the replacement registered nurses that it provided to hospitals during labor strikes for the all-too common claims of wages owed for travel time and automatic meal period deductions. The nurses also claimed that they should have been paid daily, rather than weekly. The settlement was filed for preliminary approval on May 2, 2013, and a hearing to preliminarily approve the settlement is scheduled for June 6, 2013. (Bolton v. U.S. Nursing Corp., N.D. Cal., No. 3:12-cv-04466).
In the suit, Shameka Bolton asserts that U.S. Nursing did not pay the replacement nurses for the time they spent traveling from their hotels to the hospitals. Ms. Bolton also asserts a claim that U.S. Nursing was automatically deducting for a 30 minute meal period each day, a claim that is extremely common in many of the suits against healthcare employers. Finally, the suit alleges that under California law, the nurses should have been paid daily, rather than weekly.
Interestingly, the settlement was reached quickly after the case was first filed in July 2012 in California state court and then removed to federal court in the Northern District of California in August 2012. By February 2013, the case was referred to private alternative dispute resolution. The settlement comes before any motions for conditional certification under the FLSA or state class certification have been filed.
The settlement covers a group of more than 2,500 nurses who were paid by U.S. Nursing to work at various hospitals in Northern and Central California during labor strikes starting in 2008. In addition, the settlement includes a subclass of nearly 500 employees for meal period deduction claims.