Nurses’ suit seeks payment for break time at St. Mary’s

Two nurses are suing an Amsterdam hospital, alleging they didn’t get paid for break time they spent

Two nurses are suing a hospital, alleging they didn’t get paid for break time they spent working.

Anne Mancini Church of Broadalbin and Kenneth K. Varriale of Northville are named as plaintiffs in the lawsuit alleging St. Mary’s Hospital in Amsterdam violated labor law and deprived roughly 40 employees of some of their pay.

Varriale and Church seek monetary damages dating back three years in the lawsuit filed Oct. 6 in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York.

It’s unclear at this point how many plaintiffs could be involved in the lawsuit, nor how much money might be involved, according to attorney Sarah J. Burger of the Albany law firm of Ackerman, Wachs & Finton P.C. Burger on Tuesday said the “collective action” is similar in a way to a class-action suit in that it seeks to bring other people who might be involved under the plaintiff umbrella.

In the filing, Church and Varriale contend hourly employees at the Guy Park Avenue hospital’s emergency department are automatically deducted 30 minutes of each work day because they get a half-hour meal break even though employees “almost always are denied a meal period.”

The complaint alleges violations of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, New York Labor Law and the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, or ERISA.

The ERISA law is cited because the hours employees work are factored into pension plan benefits. “Under ERISA, crediting hours is a fiduciary function, independent of the payment of wages, necessary to determine participants’ participation, vesting and accrual of rights,” the suit states.

The lawsuit contends that with workdays extending for 12-hour periods, some of the break time employees spent working should be paid out as overtime at 150 percent pay.

Aside from pay, Burger said the lawsuit also brings to light “staff and safety issues” that could impact not only workers working in a high-stress environment but also patients.

Hospital officials could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Categories: Schenectady County

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