New York hospital's nurse recruitment violates trafficking law, union says

A union is accusing Albany (N.Y.) Medical Center of trafficking law violations related to its program to recruit nurses from the Philippines to work in the hospital.

The New York State Nurses Association said in a news release that it filed a federal lawsuit against the medical center, alleging that nearly 600 Filipino nurses the hospital recruited since 2002 have been required to sign employment contracts with illegal clauses.

The following clauses are illegal, the union said:

  • A fine of up to $20,000 if recruited nurses resigns from the hospital within three years of their first day of work
  • Threatening to report nurses to federal immigration authorities and or/subjecting them to deportation if they  breach the contract

The New York State Nurses Association said its legal team found the clauses after registered nurses unionized in 2018, and it claims the clauses violate the Trafficking Victims Protection Act. According to the U.S. State Department, the law "provides the tools to combat trafficking in persons both worldwide and domestically."

In the complaint, the union says, "Such threats of serious financial and other harm to recent immigrant nurses renders their service at AMC for the first three years of their employment involuntary and is just the type of worker exploitation that the forced labor provisions of the TVPA are designed to prevent."

The lawsuit, filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of New York, is asking the court to declare these clauses unlawful and unenforceable.

Dennis McKenna, MD, CEO designate of Albany Medical Center, called the complaint "a grotesque perversion of the original intent of the statute" as well as "a blatant mischaracterization" of the hospital's program.

"This is the perfect example of how NYSNA does not represent the best interests of our nurses. Rather, it distorts the truth in order to create divisiveness, but this legal overreach will fail to divide our staff. NYSNA is filing this groundless lawsuit solely as a contract negotiation stunt and is merely using these nurses to try to gain an advantage," he said in a written statement to Becker's Hospital Review.

Dr. McKenna said contract negotiations have continued for more than a year, and the union never raised this issue with the hospital or made a proposal regarding nurses recruited from the Philippines.


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