California Nurses File Claims Against Twin Cities Community Hospital
According to reports, the claim alleges Twin Cities is understaffed, preventing nurses from taking their legally mandated breaks. Nurses argue they were told to walk away from patients to take their break, but such actions put patients at risk of harm, either from not receiving medical care in a timely manner or from causing their own injuries. Nurses say that by walking away from the patients they also put their own nursing licenses in jeopardy.
A lawsuit was reportedly filed in 2015 by eight nurses, alleging they were denied breaks and not paid proper overtime. That lawsuit, Barnard et al. v. Twin Cities Community Hospital et al, alleges that despite agreeing to a flexible workweek in which the nurses regularly work three 12-hour days a week in exchange for no overtime, the hospital put nurses on call and required them to leave early if the number of patients dropped, depriving them of work and making it impossible to rely on a full paycheck.
"The purpose of this lawsuit is to change the culture of the Hospital so that nurses receive proper breaks and patients receive proper care," the 2015 lawsuit states. "This lawsuit is also about wage theft by a hospital that is more interested in lining its coffers than paying its nurses a fair day's wage for a hard day's work."
Plaintiffs in the administrative claim allege the understaffing is done to cut costs and maximize profits. Under California labor law, medical centers are required to maintain a certain nurse-to-patient ratio, and nurses are required meal or rest breaks for their shifts. But the nurses argue that if they were to take their breaks, the nurse to patient ratio would drop outside the legally set limits. As a result, nurses allege they were offered additional pay for skipping breaks, but were then not given that pay.
The claims are scheduled for court in September 2017.
Twin Cities is owned by Tenet Health, which has not commented on the lawsuit. A statement was released from the hospital that it would defend against the action and it is committed to providing safe, high quality patient care.