The Nebraska health system has settled a lawsuit brought by several of its nurses over the pay they received for remotely answering patient calls and texts. The providers alleged that the company violated state and federal laws by paying them just $2 an hour for their work on weekdays with an extra 50 cents an hour on weekends. CHI Health has agreed to $800,000 as part of the settlement more than four years after the complaint was first filed.
The work was performed in 2018. And the hourly wage the nurses received was below the federal minimum hourly wage of $7.25 an hour and Nebraska’s minimum wage of $9 an hour. The nurses’ pay increased to $3 an hour for those who worked 50 hours or less per week and $4 an hour for those who worked more than 50 hours. The on-call shifts lasted 14 hours. The nurses added that they weren’t compensated for overtime.
Attorney Kathleen Neary, who is representing the nurses, confirmed that the nurses lost wages and retirement contributions because of the low pay. She asked the judge to certify the class action lawsuit, which was approved.
Attorney Vince Powers, who is also representing the nurses, said the payout will be distributed among the plaintiffs but the individual amount depends on how many nurses file a claim. The notice of the settlement was sent to 2,643 current and former CHI employees but as of Dec. 21, there were only 168 claims filed. Powers said nurses eligible for compensation have until March 6 to file.
The terms of the settlement were approved in court on Tuesday. The order said the settlement amount is equal to around 47% of the maximum wages owed to the class action members, which “compares favorably to results achieved in other wage and hour class action suits approved in this circuit.”
The court said the settlement was designed to avoid significant expenses and avoid future litigation to ensure the members receive a timely payout. In addition to the $800,000 compensation, the settlement included $96,000 in litigation expenses and just under $654,000 in legal fees.
When asked for comment, a spokesperson for CHI Health said the company appreciates all the work the nurses do. “They are on the front lines of patient care and core to our mission. We pay our nurses generously and go to great lengths to ensure compliance with all applicable wage and hour laws,” Taylor Miller said.
While she denied the allegations, she said, “CommonSpirit (CHI’s parent company) made the business decision to resolve the case. We look forward to having this matter behind us and continuing to execute on our mission, vision and values.”