Schenectady

Nurse sues Ellis Hospital, alleges underpayment of wages

Violations of state and federal labor law alleged; class action sought for hundreds of similar employees
A file image of Ellis Hospital in Schenectady.
PHOTOGRAPHER:
A file image of Ellis Hospital in Schenectady.

Categories: Business, News

Schenectady — An Ellis Hospital nurse is bringing a federal lawsuit against Ellis, claiming it violated state and federal labor laws and underpaid her in the process.

The allegations center on the number of hours worked per week, overtime not paid and lunch breaks denied. Her attorney is seeking class-action and collective-action status on behalf of hundreds of other Ellis employees that may be in a similar situation.

The complaint was filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York in Albany. It seeks unpaid wages and overtime wages, interest, penalties, attorney fees and legal costs.

Ellis declined to comment on the litigation but defended its compliance with labor regulations. “Speaking generally, Ellis Medicine respects and adheres to state and federal labor laws,” it said in an emailed statement Thursday.

John Nestico , the North Carolina attorney representing nurse Denise Davella, did not return a request for comment for this story.

The court papers he filed make the following assertions and allegations:

  • Ellis requires Davilla and similar employees to be on duty and available for work during their meal breaks, meaning they are not bona fide uninterrupted 30-minute breaks, as required by law.
  • Ellis nonetheless deducts a 30-minute break from their shift, thus denying them wages due under state and federal labor rules for having worked or been on standby to work for those 30 minutes.
  • Working through meal breaks boosts the employees’ work week above 40 hours but Ellis does not pay these employees the required rate of 1.5 times their normal wage for hours worked in excess of 40 per work week.
  • Ellis is aware these employees sometimes work more than 10 hours per workday but does not provide them the extra one hour of pay required when the workday exceeds 10 hours.
  • The identity and total number of these similar employees will be readily available through Ellis’ payroll records; Davella believes there are more than 500 such employees.
  • Ellis did not maintain payroll records accurately showing the number of hours worked by Davella and the other employees, nor provide them with accurate itemized wage statements.

Nestico is seeking a jury trial.

In addition to money, the legal complaint seeks a declaration that Ellis’ actions were illegal, and that Ellis broke the law willfully; an order preventing Ellis from retaliating against Davella or any other employee involved in the lawsuit; and designation of the case as a class action and collective action.

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Class and collective actions are similar — a single lawsuit filed by one person or a few people on behalf of a large group of people in very similar or identical circumstances. A key difference is that the unnamed potential defendants must opt out of a class action if they do not want to be part of it but must opt in to a collective action if they do want to be part of it.

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