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Latest News - April 2013

April 3, 2013
Nurses receive payout from suit
Source: Times Union
By: Robert Gavin

More than 3,200 registered nurses in the Capital Region have started to receive checks as their part of a multimillion-dollar settlement of a class-action lawsuit that accused local hospitals of conspiring to depress their wages.

Payouts to the 3,277 nurses — which average $1,730 — were mailed to the recipients beginning on April 29, according to SEIU 1199, the state's largest health care union, which supported the plaintiffs and did research for the lawsuit.

"We feel that this is a major victory for the nurses as well as for health care," said Lisa Brown, SEIU 1199's executive vice president for the Hudson Valley area, which covers the Capital Region. "Because if people feel valued in their work, they stay committed. We think this will improve quality of care. We think that the nurses will feel more valued by their employer."

The lawsuit alleged that Albany Medical Center Hospital, Ellis Hospital in Schenectady, St. Peter's Hospital in Albany, Albany Memorial Hospital, St. Mary's Hospital in Amsterdam and Samaritan Hospital in Troy shared detailed wage information and agreed not to compete for nurses over a four-year period, violating federal antitrust law.

Hourly rates paid by the hospitals allegedly differed by no more than $1.

Two Albany area nurses, Wendy Fleischman and Cindy Cullen, filed the suit in 2006. The period in which the hospitals allegedly conspired was between June 20, 2002, through June 20, 2006.

Court papers described the alleged actions by the medical facilities as a "wage-fixing conspiracy" that happened during a nationwide nursing shortage and jeopardized patient care.

Daniel Small, a Washington, D.C.-based attorney for the plaintiffs, previously estimated that each nurse lost about $6,000 annually in compensation.

In April 2009, Troy-based Northeast Health, which runs Samaritan Hospital and Albany Memorial Hospital and is now part of St. Peter's Health Partners, agreed to settle in April 2009 for $1.25 million. St. Peter's Hospital settled in June 2009 for nearly $2.7 million. Earlier that year, Seton Health, which runs St. Mary's Hospital in Troy and is now also part of St. Peter's Health Partners, settled for $744,000. The settlement with Ellis Hospital was reached in 2011.

"These settlement payouts are a victory for registered nurses and for patients," Norma Amsterdam, a registered nurse and an executive vice president at 1199SEIU, said in a statement. "The checks will help compensate."

The union said similar lawsuits were filed in Detroit, Chicago, San Antonio and Memphis.



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