Overtime lawsuit costs Beth Israel Deaconess and parent CareGroup $8.5 million

Pending court approval, CareGroup Healthcare System in Boston has agreed to pay up to $8.5 million to settle a class-action lawsuit charging that four member hospitals--Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital Needham Campus, Mount Auburn Hospital in Cambridge and New England Baptist Hospital in Boston--didn't pay appropriate overtime to workers who worked through lunch breaks or past the end of their shifts, reports the Boston Globe.

Up to 9,000 current and former CareGroup employees who have worked at the hospitals since Sept. 3, 2006, could receive back wages under the deal. However, neither CareGroup nor any of the hospitals will admit to any wrongdoing or legal violations. The class-action lawsuit was filed by the Rochester, N.Y.-based Thomas & Solomon LLP, a law firm that has filed similar lawsuits against hospitals in New York and Pennsylvania.

Union organizers who have been working with some CareGroup employees called the settlement "a tremendous victory," reports the Boston Herald. "Workers should always be compensated for work they perform--it is the most fundamental legal and moral responsibility employers have," says Veronica Turner, vice president of 1199SEIU.

A Pennsylvania hospital also has had overtime-related legal issues (in a case not involving Thomas & Solomon). In May, a Philadelphia judge ruled that Marian Community Hospital and parent Maxis Health System in Carbondale should pay damages in a class-action lawsuit filed in 2008 alleging that Marian used a 14-day, 80-hour pay period in order to deny workers overtime in violation of the state's Minimum Wage Act, reports the Times-Tribune. Damages will be determined at a Sept. 22 hearing.

The ruling could impact hospital workers throughout the state "because the judge has very clearly explained that overtime has to be paid when a worker goes over 40 hours in a work week," Pete Winebrake, a Philadelphia lawyer representing the hospital workers, tells the Times-Tribune.

To learn more:
- read this Boston Globe article
- check out this Boston Herald article
- visit the Thomas & Solomon hospital overtime website
- read this Times-Tribune article