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$1.8 million settlement in the works for Menorah Medical Center nurses who were shorted pay

 Members of the SEIU bargaining committee chanting slogans outside Menorah Medical Center in July 2020.
Carlos Moreno
Members of the SEIU bargaining committee chanting slogans outside Menorah Medical Center in July 2020.

A federal judge has indicated he will approve a $1.8 million settlement that would resolve a dispute by registered nurses at Menorah Medical Center over docked pay.

U.S. District Judge Daniel Crabtree found that the proposed settlement was fair and reasonable. But he declined to approve one settlement term that he said prevented him from approving the settlement as a whole.

He invited the plaintiffs to renew their request for approval by filing an amended settlement agreement — presumably without the offending settlement term.

The case was filed in July 2019 by nurses who worked for four different Menorah divisions. They alleged Menorah altered their time sheets to prevent them from being paid for all the hours they worked.

Specifically, they claimed that Menorah routinely adjusted their clock-in and clock-out times to prevent rounding in their favor. They also alleged they were expected to take 30-minute unpaid meal breaks on each of their shifts and were “encouraged” to take meal breaks only when “patient care needs” permitted them to do so.

If the settlement is ultimately approved by Crabtree, the plaintiffs’ attorneys would receive 30% of the settlement amount, or $540,000 – a standard percentage in settled cases.

The nurses would receive amounts ranging from $575 to $1,800 each, depending on which Menorah division they worked for.

An attorney for the plaintiffs did not respond to requests for comment. A spokesperson for HCA Midwest Health, which operates Menorah, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The settlement term standing in the way of Crabtree’s approval concerned so-called service awards totaling $36,000 to the three nurses who brought the suit. The money is meant to compensate them for the time and effort they devoted to the litigation and the risks they undertook.

In exchange for Menorah’s agreement not to contest the service awards, they agreed to release any and all claims against Menorah. Crabtree, however, said that release was overly broad and he could not approve it.

He said courts should approve such service awards based only on the plaintiffs’ prosecution of the lawsuit and the risks they undertook, and not in return for a general release of claims against the defendants.

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Dan was born in Brooklyn, N.Y. and moved to Kansas City with his family when he was eight years old. He majored in philosophy at Washington University in St. Louis and holds law and journalism degrees from Boston University. He has been an avid public radio listener for as long as he can remember – which these days isn’t very long… Dan has been a two-time finalist in The Gerald Loeb Awards for Distinguished Business and Financial Journalism, and has won multiple regional awards for his legal and health care coverage. Dan doesn't have any hobbies as such, but devours one to three books a week, assiduously works The New York Times Crossword puzzle Thursdays through Sundays and, for physical exercise, tries to get in a couple of rounds of racquetball per week.