News and Events

Article: Nurses Who Faced Lawsuits for Quitting Are Fighting Back

News Forced Labor and Trafficking Wage Theft / Misclassification

Bloomberg News
Hospitals are leaning harder than ever on underpaid contract staffers, many from the Philippines. The ones who are suing could change that. (Read the full article)
A couple of years ago, Novie Dale Carmen paid $20,000 to quit her nursing job. She was less than halfway to fulfilling the three-year commitment she’d made to Health Carousel LLC, the health-care staffing agency that had helped get her from the Philippines to a hospital in Muncy, a town about three hours northwest of Philadelphia. From across the Pacific, the deal had seemed like a good one, but once she was in Pennsylvania, she began to feel differently.

Carmen says she was paid much less than the American nurses around her. She was banned from discussing her working conditions or going out of town without notifying the agency. Health Carousel seemed to keep finding ways not to count her work toward the 6,240 hours on her contract—the first three months of shifts didn’t qualify, the company said, because it considered that time part of her orientation period. Mandatory overtime didn’t count toward her quota, either. And because she couldn’t refuse overtime, her shifts could stretch as long as 16 hours in an understaffed emergency room.

“I was basically trapped,” Carmen says. “Duped.” To pay Health Carousel’s $20,000 quitting fee, she borrowed the money from her boyfriend, who’d been saving for years to buy a house. She’d refused his offer before, out of guilt and pride, but was desperate to get away from Health Carousel without being sued for quitting, as had happened to many of her peers.

Now Carmen is the one suing. She’s filed a proposed class action in Health Carousel’s home state of Ohio, accusing the company of human trafficking. Although “trafficking” evokes images of people brutally beaten or chained in captivity, the legal definition is much broader and includes trying to coerce someone to do something by threatening serious harm or abuse of the legal process. In June a U.S. district judge rejected Health Carousel’s motion to dismiss the case. At the end of last year, Carmen added claims of wage theft and racketeering, and two more plaintiffs….(Read the full article)