Seven nurses are seeking class-action status in a lawsuit filed this week against CHI Health alleging the hospital is violating state and federal wage laws by not paying enough for on-call work and overtime for work they perform while on call.

They all work as registered nurses or staff nurses in the Interventional Radiology department at CHI St. Elizabeth, according to the complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Lincoln.

In it, attorney Kathleen Neary alleges CHI Health is violating the Fair Labor Standards Act, the Nebraska Wage Payment and Collection Act and the Nebraska Wage Act.

The suit specifically focuses on pay for on-call work and overtime.

In an emailed statement from CHI Health, a company based in Englewood, Colorado, a spokesperson said Friday it hasn't yet been served with the complaint, but is aware of the allegations raised in it.

"CHI Health is looking into all matters raised in that complaint and will handle all appropriately. Because this involves litigation, CHI Health cannot comment on any facts of the matter. CHI Health takes serious the allegations raised in this complaint, and is committed to full compliance with the law and fair treatment for all of its employees," the spokesperson said.

In the lawsuit, Neary, the nurses' attorney, said through October they were only paid $2 an hour for on-call work on weekdays, answering calls, emails and texts related to patient services and occasionally answering patient questions.

CHI Health paid 50 cents more an hour for weekend on-call work.

She said the rate went up in November to $3 an hour for 50 or fewer on-call hours and $4 for those who work more than 50 on-call hours.

The federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour; and Nebraska's minimum wage is $9 an hour.

By paying nurses between $2-$4 an hour for on-call work, Neary said, CHI "has violated the state and federal statutes noted herein."

Neary said CHI also hasn't paid nurses for overtime when their on-call hours plus regular hours at the hospital put them at more than 40 hours per week.

On-call shifts last 14 hours, she said.

The lawsuit asks the judge to certify that a class action may be brought against CHI on behalf of the seven nurses and other current and former employees like them.

Neary said they all have lost wages, contributions to retirement plans and interest on both as a result.

She also asked the judge to declare that CHI's conduct violated the nurses' legal rights and direct the company to pay them back wages, retirement contributions and interest due, and award them liquidated damages.

If allowed to go forward as a class action, three of the seven nurses named in the suit — Nichole Walkinshaw, Tysha Bryant and Troy Stauffer — would represent the group.

The others nurses involved in the lawsuit are April Endicott, Heather Nabity, Meghan Martin and Alandrea Ellwanger.

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7237 or lpilger@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSpilger.


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