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New York Nurses Win Wage-Fixing Lawsuit

Rosenberg, Karen

AJN The American Journal of Nursing: July 2013 - Volume 113 - Issue 7 - p 14
doi: 10.1097/01.NAJ.0000431899.96860.7b
In the News

Class action suit part of nationwide effort to address unfair practices.

More than 3,000 RNs in New York State are receiving checks as a result of the settlement of a class action lawsuit against five hospitals that conspired to suppress nurses’ wages in violation of federal antitrust laws. Each of the 3,277 RNs affected by the settlement will receive payouts, which average $1,730.

Norma Amsterdam, an RN and an executive vice president of 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, the union that supported the plaintiffs and conducted the research that laid the foundation for the suit, called the settlement a victory for RNs and patients. She predicted that it will improve the overall quality of health care in the area. Fair compensation for RNs, she said in a press release, “means there will be better recruitment and retention of qualified staff,” as well as safer staffing and, ultimately, a higher quality of care for patients.

The suit filed in 2006 by two Albany-area RNs, Wendy Fleischman and Cindy Cullen, alleged that from June 20, 2002, through June 20, 2006, five hospitals in the Capital Region of New York State—Albany Medical Center, Ellis Health, Northeast Health, Seton Health, and St. Peter's Health—shared confidential RN wage information and conspired to suppress wages. Hourly wages paid by the hospitals varied by $1 or less. The plaintiffs claimed that as a result of these actions, the nurses’ wages were below what they would otherwise be earning, particularly during a nationwide nursing shortage. Daniel Small, the plaintiffs’ attorney, estimated that each RN lost about $6,000 in compensation annually.

According to 1199SEIU, the suit was part of a national effort to address the nursing shortage, and similar lawsuits have been filed in Detroit; Chicago; San Antonio, Texas; and Memphis, Tennessee. Two hospitals named in the Detroit wage-fixing suit, Henry Ford Health System and Trinity Health Corporation, recently agreed to settlements of $8.4 million and $5.1 million, respectively.

Settlements with the other Detroit hospitals were reached previously. In other cities, courts have denied class certification, and the outcome of some cases is still pending.—Karen Rosenberg

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