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Catholic Healthcare West Class Action Lawsuit

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Class Action Lawsuit on Behalf of hourly, non-exempt Nurses who provide direct patient care employed by Catholic Healthcare West in acute care facilities for Wage and Hour Violations (referred to collectively as Nurses).

Current employees of Catholic Healthcare West in California filed a lawsuit in February, 2008 alleging violations of state wage and hour laws at hospitals located throughout California. The case is currently pending in San Francisco Superior Court.

The law firm Cohelan Khoury & Singer represents the employees in this lawsuit.

The Plaintiffs allege that Catholic Healthcare West routinely violated state wage and hour laws. Nurses were not permitted to take the meal and rest breaks required by law, worked "off-the-clock" without hourly or overtime pay, and other wage and hour violations. Individuals in the medical field, especially nurses must adhere to strict patient staffing ratios. They often are not provided with proper break relief and are not able to take off-duty, uninterrupted 30 minute meal periods for shifts of five hours or a second meal period for shifts greater than 10 hours or 10 minute rest periods for every four hours worked. Plaintiffs seek unpaid wages and compensation on behalf of the class of nurses employed by Catholic Healthcare West in California.

Current and former Nurses employed by Catholic Healthcare West in California are encouraged to contact Plaintiffs’ counsel.

It is illegal for your supervisors or managers to threaten or retaliate against you for participating in an investigation or lawsuit.

The case is pending in the San Francisco Superior Court, case number CGC-08-471761 before the Honorable John E. Munter.

Rest and Meal Period Requirements for California Employees

Hourly employees working shifts of at least five hours must receive an unpaid 30-minute meal period in which they are completely relieved of all duties and free to leave the work premises. The meal period can be waived by the employee for shifts that do not exceed six hours. A second such meal period is required for shifts that exceed ten hours. The employer is responsible for ensuring that employees take their meal period within the first five hours of work. Meal periods cannot be waived, nor may an employee leave work 30 minutes early instead of taking a meal period. Employees must clock-out for the meal period (unless all operations cease and all employees take their break at the same time).

Employees are entitled to one hour's wages at their regular rate of pay for every day the employer fails to provide a meal period. If employees are required to remain at the job site in order to be available to work but must still clock out for their meal periods, they are entitled to payment at their regular rate of pay for the meal period plus the premium of one hour's pay. Employees who have not received meal breaks or premium compensation for unprovided breaks are entitled to back pay of one hour's pay per day.

If the nature of the work prevents employees from being able to leave for the meal period (such as where a single employee works a convenience store register during late hours), the employee may take a paid "on-duty" meal period, provided they sign an on-duty meal period that states it is revocable by the employee at any time. An employee who refuses to sign such an agreement must either be paid one hour's premium pay at the employee's regular rate of pay if required to work through a meal period or given a different shift or otherwise permitted to take an off-duty meal period.

Paid rest periods of ten minutes for every four hours or major fraction thereof must be provided and made available to hourly employees. The employer must clearly communicate to hourly employees that they are authorized and permitted to take rest breaks, which must come as near as practicable to the middle of the four-hour period. Rest periods may not be grouped together nor taken at the end of the day in order to leave early, unless the employee elects without coercion to waive one or more rest periods. Unless there is a clear waiver, an employer must make arrangements to freely allow employees to "break" themselves or provide relief employees. Employees are also entitled to one hour's pay at their regular rate of pay for every day on which they were not provided one or more paid rest periods.

Class Action Requirements

The plaintiffs have filed their case as a class action. A class action is a lawsuit brought by one or more individuals as representatives for an entire group who have been affected by a common violation but who do not need to participate in the lawsuit in order to be awarded a recovery. A class action suit may occur when many different people combine their similar complaints. This saves court time and allows a single judge to hear all the concerns at the same time, and come to one settlement or resolution for all parties. This process creates a procedure for redressing a relatively small claim that might otherwise be too costly to litigate on an individual basis.

The courts closely monitor class action cases. A case may not proceed on a class basis until the court certifies that it meets the requirements of a class action. When a trial court certifies a case as a class action, there is no necessity to "join" that Class. A class member is automatically a member of the certified Class, unless that member elects to exclude themselves or "opt out" of the Class. No resolution is final without court approval, including any award of attorney's fees.

A claim may be maintained as a class action under California law when the question is one of a common or general interest, of many persons, or when the parties are numerous, and it is impracticable to bring them all before the court. There must be an "ascertainable class," which means class members can be clearly defined and identified. This allows a court to provide notice of the class action to all potentially affected. There must also be a "community of interest" in the subject matter of the action, including predominant common questions of law or fact, class representatives with claims or defenses typical of the class, and class representatives and competent class counsel who can adequately represent the class.

For example, failure to provide meal, rest periods or all wages due rarely impacts only a single worker. One employee can bring an action against an employer as the representative of every similarly-situated employee suffering the same treatment, including different job classifications.

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