The complaint for this class action alleges that Sutter Health understaffs some of its facilities, making it difficult or impossible for staff to take their legally-mandated rest and meal breaks. The complaint says employees are also not permitted to record the missed breaks or overtime, and that if they do, Sutter alters their time cards. These things are violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), California state labor laws, and the state’s Industrial Wage Commission Wage Orders.
Plaintiff Gina Mangrubang works for Sutter Health as a respiratory therapist (RT). She claims that Sutter deliberately understaffs its respiratory therapy department in order to cut costs.
The law requires certain meal and rest breaks for hourly, non-exempt employees, and Sutter is aware of this. In fact, the complaint says the company at times requires RTs to clock out for a break but to remain on duty in reality, so that they get neither their break times or the premium they would be due if they did not get them.
The complaint says that sometimes staff are allowed by their supervisors to take their breaks but later reprimanded by higher-ranking persons for “jeopardizing patient safety” by doing so. According to the complaint, “Sutter’s managers have even gone so far as to attempt to manufacture evidence against respiratory therapists in an attempt to find grounds to reprimand and discipline them for taking their state-mandated lunch and rest breaks, despite [their] having received permission from their supervisors.”
Other employees are denied rest breaks as well, the complaint says, and they are forbidden to note the missed breaks on their time cards. If they do record the missed meal and rest breaks, the complaint alleges, Sutter alters their time cards to remove them, so as not to have to pay penalties or extra fees.
Also, the complaint claims that nurses are forced to clock out before they fulfilling their charting duties so that they do not accrue overtime. It says that Sutter has also denied overtime to lab workers, made them skip their breaks, and forced them to take their lunches in the final hour of their shifts, “in contravention to hospital policy and union bargaining agreements.”
How has it gotten away with all this? The complaint says the company retaliates against those who complain, subjects them to discipline, and refuses them benefits given to other workers. Also, the complaint claims, it tries to remove union personnel from common areas and to shift union meetings to different locations, “to make its employees uncomfortable during these proceedings and reduce their bargaining power.”
The class for this action is current and former non-exempt hourly employees who are or were employed by Sutter in California as healthcare staff, such as respiratory therapists, phlebotomists, pharmacy technicians, ER technicians, imaging personnel, nursing assistants, physicians, and nurses, at any time between July 9, 2015 and final judgment of this case. There is also a subclass for former employees for certain causes of action.