Kaiser Skips Overtime, Nonunion Nurses Say

     OAKLAND, Calif. (CN) – Kaiser makes traveling nurses work over 12 hours without overtime pay, and with some hours unpaid, they claim in a class action.
     Lead plaintiff Evette Osuegbu sued AMN Healthcare and Kaiser Permanente International in Alameda County Superior Court on April 6 on behalf of herself and all traveling nurses jointly employed by both companies. The case is the Top Download for Courthouse News on Friday.
     “Defendants have engaged in a common scheme of routinely requiring and/or suffering and permitting the traveling nurses to work in excess of 12 hours per day without compensating them at the statutorily-mandated double-time rate, and have failed to compensate the traveling nurses at all for discrete periods of work,” the 27-page complaint states.
     Traveling nurses work at various healthcare facilities throughout the country that contract with AMN for around three-months, after which they go to a new location, according to the complaint.
     Nurses who work for both AMN and Kaiser are supposed to work four 12-hour shifts a week, but Osuegbu claims they routinely have to work well over 12 hours a day without extra wages or normal overtime pay.
     She says traveling nurses have to attend mandatory staff meetings, called “huddles,” at the beginning of their shifts in which supervisors discuss safety, show them how to use medical devices and products, and “give motivational speeches. While the meetings are scheduled to last only 15 minutes, they routinely last 30 minutes to an hour. As a result, traveling nurses are routinely behind schedule from the start of their shifts.”
     They also have to “hand off” patients to the next shift of nurses, which usually involves visiting around five patients with the nurse scheduled to assume their care, filling out reports, updating records, and briefing the new nurse on each patient’s health history and care plan – which can take up to two additional hours, according to the complaint.
     Though the defendants know huddles and hand-offs take can take hours, they schedule only 30 minutes into each nurse’s shift, meaning traveling nurses often must wait 15 to 45 minutes for the next shift’s huddle to break up before they can start the hand-off process. By that time, their own 12-hours shift has technically concluded, the complaint states.
     Osuegbu says she and other traveling nurses routinely work 13.5-hour days despite being scheduled – and paid – for only 12 hours.
     Even without the meetings and hand-offs, having five or more patients per shift and the accompanying workload, such as taking blood samples, writing records, filling out charts, administering IVs, performing physical exams, and other duties, means that nurses “typically cannot complete all of their duties within the pre-allotted 12-hour shift time,” the complaint states.
     Kaiser requires traveling nurses to get a supervisor signature on any double-time. But Kaiser supervisors routinely refuse to sign off on the nurses’ timecards, and Kaiser refuses to pay for their overtime by citing lack of supervisor approval, making it “futile” to report the true total number of hours worked, according to the complaint.
     However, when Kaiser’s other nurses, who are unionized, request double-time they are usually approved, the complaint states.
     Osuegbu says she complained several times about not getting paid all wages owed, but the defendants ignored her.
     AMN did not immediately respond to an emailed comment request sent Thursday afternoon. Kaiser responded that it had no knowledge of the lawsuit.
     Osuegbu seeks class certification, restitution for all wages owed, and civil and statutory penalties for state labor code violations and unfair business practices.
     She is represented by Joshua Konecky with Schneider, Wallace, Cottrell, Konecky, Wotkyns of Emeryville, who also did not immediately return comment requests.

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