October 24, 2021

Volume XI, Number 297

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October 22, 2021

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October 21, 2021

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Balancing Client Needs with Employee Needs

A decision out of the Northern District of California serves as a reminder that service industries need to carefully balance their commitment to client care with wage and hour obligations. A case manager at a large medical facility filed a class action claim under the California Private Attorneys General Act (“PAGA”) against the facility for multiple violations of federal and California law, including failure to pay overtime wages and failure to provide meal and rest breaks.  The crux of her complaint was that she and other employees felt pressured to work off-the-clock in order to adequately tend to a larger number of patients after “cost-cutting measures” increased each employee’s workload.

The plaintiff alleged that the medical staff had to work through meal and rest periods and after their shifts ended to fulfill their duties for each patient. They would continue inputting patient notes and processing insurance claims after clocking out. According to the plaintiff, the defendant has electronic record systems that capture the time at which patient information is entered, showing that employees regularly enter patient notes and insurance claims after clocking out for the day. The plaintiff claimed that employees also regularly worked more than five hours without a meal because their performance reviews were largely dependent on dedication to timely patient care.

When the defendant medical center moved to dismiss the overtime and meal and rest break claims, the court denied the motion, repeatedly citing plaintiff’s allegations that the facility’s employees felt “required” to work off-the-clock. The defendant attempted to argue that the complaint failed to state why the plaintiff did not clock her overtime for the additional time she spent inputting patient data.  Although a plaintiff is not actually required explain exactly why she did not clock overtime, the court emphasized plaintiff’s allegations that employees felt required to do so after budget cuts resulted in a higher patient-to-employee ratio. When the medical facility also attempted to argue that the complaint failed to explain “how or why Plaintiff and the proposed class were deprived of meal breaks,” again the court referenced the plaintiff’s allegations regarding the budget cuts.  Additionally, the court cited the claims made about the facility’s policies, holding that the plaintiff sufficiently alleged that the defendant “discouraged taking rest and lunch breaks by emphasizing in performance reviews and policies that patient care should be the priority.”

It is important for employers to ensure that their employees are able to timely and successfully complete their duties, especially if considering reducing staff due to budgetary concerns. Employees in service-based industries such as healthcare may feel compelled to miss a meal or rest period or work off-the-clock to help a client or patient or for fear of poor performance reviews.

Jackson Lewis P.C. © 2021National Law Review, Volume VIII, Number 108
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About this Author

Ashley Evans, Jackson Lewis, labor and employment lawyer
Associate

Ashley L. Evans is an Associate in the Sacramento, California, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. Her practice focuses on representing employers in workplace law matters.

While attending law school at UCLA, Ms. Evans was a member of the UCLA Law Review.  She also externed for the Honorable Paul J. Watford, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

Prior to joining Jackson Lewis, Ms. Evans was a law clerk for the Honorable Samuel H. Mays, Jr., U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee.  She was also a...

916-341-0404
Dale R. Kuykendall, Labor and Employment Attorney, Jackson Lewis Law Firm
Principal

Dale R. Kuykendall is a Principal in the Sacramento, California, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. His practice focuses on advising and counseling employers in the hiring, supervision and termination of employees.

In addition to his advice and counsel practice, Mr. Kuykendall has successfully litigated a wide variety of employment cases through trial, including claims of unfair competition, breach of contract, discrimination, harassment and wrongful termination.

Prior to joining Jackson Lewis...

916-341-0404
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