Hospital doesn't owe leave benefits to former nurses, Pennsylvania panel finds after 18-year case

A Pennsylvania appellate panel sided with Colmar, Pa.-based HealthSpark Foundation Oct. 13 in an 18-year battle that determined the health system did not owe a group of former nurses compensation and leave benefits.

This reverses a lower court's decision made in 2019.

The hospital — then named North Penn Hospital — had a policy that compensation and vacation hours are earned on Jan. 1 of each year and are determined by the number of hours worked the previous year. They are not earned over the course of the year.

The hospital terminated the nurses prior to Jan. 1, 2002, because it agreed to sell its assets to King of Prussia, Pa.-based Universal Health Services on Oct. 19, 2001. It was determined that the hospital would terminate all of its employees on Dec. 31, 2001, making them ineligible for benefits. The employees could apply for employment at Universal, which would provide them with 2002 personal leave benefits.

The nurses argued that they had "earned" the benefits throughout 2001 and should be compensated for them, but the panel agreed with HealthSpark that the benefits were not earned until Jan. 1, 2002, and it did not owe benefits to the nurses because they were terminated before that date.

The nurses filed complaints against the system Oct. 10, 2003.

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