Virginia Mason Franciscan Health to pay $5.5M settlement in nurse class-action suit

A Washington healthcare system will pay $5.5 million to settle a class-action lawsuit in which thousands of nurses claim they weren't properly paid for lunch and other breaks, reports The Kitsap Sun.

Virginia Mason Franciscan Health — the byproduct of an official merger between Tacoma, Wash.-based CHI Franciscan and Seattle-based Virginia Mason — was accused of violating the federal Fair Labor Standards Act and Washington state law. The case, brought by Hana Etcheverry, RN, a nurse at the former Harrison Medical Center in Bremerton, Wash., alleged nurses who worked shifts of 12 hours or more, "experience significant amounts of pre- and post-shift off-the-clock work, including unpaid, on-duty time preparing for their days before clocking in as well as completing charting and patient paperwork after clocking out."

The lawsuit included more than 7,000 employees claiming nurses "cannot take timely, full, off-duty meal and rest periods, due to a lack of break relief and their required adherence to their ethical responsibilities to remain responsible for patient care at all times throughout their shifts."

The average payment a nurse will receive from the settlement is $510, reports The Kitsap Sun.

"Virginia Mason Franciscan Health is committed to the fair compensation of our employees," Cary Evans, vice president of communications and government affairs, said in a statement cited by The Kitsap Sun. The system is currently in the process of notifying staff about the settlement. 

"We strongly deny that we have violated any wage and hour laws," Mr. Evans said. "However, we believe the best use of our resources is to move forward and focus on providing top-quality patient care, rather than further extending a costly and time-consuming legal case."

Carolyn Cottrell, an attorney representing the nurses, didn't respond to The Kitsap Sun's requests for comment.

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