Sutter Health Could Face Big Payout to Staff for Missed Meal, Rest Breaks
State labor regulators and officials for hospital chain Sutter Health are auditing employee records to resolve complaints about compensation for meals and other breaks that workers skipped, the Sacramento Bee reports.
California rules require that workers receive a 30-minute meal break for every five hours of work, and a 10-minute rest break every four hours. Employees are entitled to an hour's wage for each day that the rules are violated.
A state Supreme Court ruling in April 2007 expanded penalties for violating those rules, permitting workers to request compensation going back three or four years if a lawsuit is filed. Moreover, the ruling permitted workers to request that employers reimburse them for legal fees and costs.
Hundreds of current and former Sutter workers are expected to seek a multimillion dollar payout from the hospital chain, which has paid out $3.8 million to workers over the past three years for violations of the break rules.
Sutter settled 38 claims in November 2007, paying out $410,336. Eighty other claims have been put on hold while Sutter audits payroll records and time cards for the 4,500 employees at its five hospitals in the Sacramento area.
The audit is expected to continue through February.
Kim Myers, administrative nursing director at Sutter Medical Center, said any violations of the rules were inadvertent and attributed those cases to a misunderstanding of the state rules.
To avoid such payouts in the future, Sutter's time clocks now are programmed to compensate employees automatically when they miss a meal break, and supervisors are assigning break times on posted schedules, the Bee reports (Chan, Sacramento Bee, 1/24).