Hospital owes back pay for unlawfully cutting hours, judge rules

After cutting back its employees' hours, New Mexico's Mimbres Memorial Hospital, operated by Deming Hospital Corporation, now owes them back pay to compensate for the unlawful reduction in hours, an administrative law judge confirmed this week.

The National Labor Relations Board in 2004 found that Mimbres Memorial Hospital had unilaterally and unlawfully cut back the hours of its full-time respiratory department employees from 40 hours per week to between 32 and 36 hours. The board then ordered the hospital to rescind the reduced hours, bargain with the labor union that represented those employees, and "make whole any employee for any loss of earnings and other benefits suffered," according to court documents.

The hospital owes $105,000 in back pay to 13 former and current employees to compensate them for the unlawful hours reduction, according to a 2011 order from the board. The hospital appealed, but the judge agreed with the board decision and enforcement of the compensation. However, the board did not adequately explain its failure to consider interim earnings when calculating the award. The court therefore "vacated the Board's back-pay computation and remanded so the Board could amplify its position on interim earnings," the court decision states.

As hospitals struggle to deal with fewer reimbursements or reduced revenue, they may face the tough decision of reducing work hours and issuing furloughs. However, the court decision might have hospitals pausing to find alternative solutions.

For more information:
- here's the summary
- read the decision (sub. req.)

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