Sexual harassment suit against Delta County Memorial Hospital dismissed under agreement

Delta County Memorial Hospital.

An amended federal complaint has been brought against Delta County Memorial Hospital for allegedly violating wage and overtime rules.

Krystal Gray, a former nurse at the hospital, brought the class and collective action last year and filed an amended complaint earlier this month.

The fresh complaint adjusts the language in the original, strikes certain sections and adds language pertaining to unjust enrichment and violation of quasi-contract. It lists several components for calculating damages and restitution that may be awarded, including whether the hospital has a policy of requiring patient care workers to in effect work while they are supposed to be off or on break, and whether the hospital in some fashion directed workers to work off the clock.

The hospital district in its Feb. 20 answer maintains it did not violate the law and reiterates that Gray lacks standing to bring a class action.

Gray alleges she and others were made to work during breaks and mealtimes when they were not on the clock and were not properly compensated; she also alleges the hospital actively discouraged her from claiming time she worked outside of her regular hours.

Her new complaint again complains of failure to pay overtime compensation for improper automatic time deductions and failure to compensate for off-the-clock work off-the-clock work, as Fair Labor Standards Act collective actions.

Gray also alleges as Colorado class actions unjust enrichment and breach of quasi-contract.

The suit seeks recovery of unpaid overtime wages, liquidated damages, attorneys’ fees, a finding by the U.S. District Court that the hospital’s alleged policies and practices violate the Fair Labor Standards Act, punitive damages and interest. The suit further seeks an order barring the hospital from retaliation and a finding that it violated Colorado law.

Gray brought her suit on behalf of herself and other hospital workers. These individuals are proper parties because the hospital district’s policies with respect to meals and overtime violations affected them and they were deprived of correct pay, the suit says. Regardless of individual job requirements, they are entitled to compensation for work beyond 40 hours and for off the clock work, the complaint says — and individual damages can be easily calculated, the complaint also says.

“Plaintiff and collective members’ claims arise from a common nucleus of operative facts; namely, the continued and willful failure of defendant to comply with its obligation to legally compensate its employees,” attorney Carolyn Cottrell wrote.

The suit seeks to represent as “Colorado class” members all current and former hourly, non-exempt employees employed by the hospital district at any time three years prior to the filing of the complaint and until it is resolved. The number of class members exceeds 40, making it “impracticable” for each individual class member to join and requiring individual actions would prejudice them.

The complaint also says there are multiple common questions of law and fact, including as to whether the hospital failed to pay Gray and the Colorado class members for all hours work; failed to keep records, or failed to allow them to take uninterrupted meal breaks as Colorado law entitles them to take.

A class action is the superior means for “fair and efficient” adjudication, Cottrell wrote. Making individuals each file their own suit would give the hospital an “unconscionable advantage” because the hospital has significantly greater means of waging court battles.

But the hospital district in its answer reiterated previous defenses: that Gray’s complaint does not seek relief that the court can grant against the hospital.

The answer calls the complaint a “hybrid” of opt-in and opt-out collective and class actions that is inappropriate and says Gray is not the proper representative to bring class complaints. Hospital attorney Michael Santo wrote the action is not properly brought as a collective or class action and litigating the claims through a generalized class-wide manner violates the hospital’s due process right to a trial by jury.

Among other defenses the hospital district raised in its answer: individual claims would not result in inconsistent resolutions, incompatible standards, or impede potential class members’ ability to protect their interests.

Further, the answer says Gray has been paid at least the applicable minimum wage for all hours worked; the hospital did not make improper pay deductions, and her claims are barred to the extent that she did not work more than 40 hours in a work week.

Gray’s complaint fails to satisfy numerous legal standards and is further barred because any acts or omissions leading to the suit “were done in good faith and with reasonable grounds for believing that the acts or omissions were not a violation of the FLSA.”

The hospital does not have a policy or practice that denies employees proper compensation, the answer says, also raising a two-year statute of limitations for the claims against it.

Gray and potential class action members may have worked overtime without the hospital’s knowledge or permission, thus barring them from bringing a cause of action for overtime, the answer also argues. Not every activity Gray raised constituted “work” within the meaning of applicable law; was not integral to her main job activities, or was taken for her own convenience, the answer also says.

“Delta County Memorial Hospital has not retained any benefit, including, but not limited to, any unpaid work from plaintiff,” Santo wrote.

The hospital wants a finding that Gray’s claims are preempted by other state or federal law, and also wants costs and attorneys’ fees.

Katharhynn Heidelberg is the Montrose Daily Press assistant editor and senior writer. Follow her on Twitter, @kathMDP.

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