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Working Lunch

Baptist Hospital employees sue for unpaid wages.

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Nurse James Allen Frye and security guard Clarence Moore held two very different positions at Baptist Memorial Health Care until their terminations. But both allege the health-care system denied them wages for off-the-clock work.

A representative action lawsuit, similar to a class action suit, was filed on their behalf in early November. Now attorney Alan Crone is seeking other former and current hourly Baptist employees who have not been paid for time spent working through lunches or before or after clocking into work.

So far, two other current or former employees have opted into the lawsuit.

"[Baptist's] computer program that calculates the payroll automatically deducts half an hour for lunch," says Crone. "But most nurses are not able to take their lunch breaks. They may eat a sandwich standing up at the duty station, but they don't get to go completely off the clock and not be working for that half-hour."

Crone also says that employees are occasionally asked to do extra work after clocking out for the day.

He says such off-the-clock work may cause employees to end up working over 40 hours a week, thus entitling them to overtime pay. Crone estimates employees may be missing anywhere from five to 20 minutes of pay per occurrence.

Last month, Baptist filed a response to the suit, denying any wrongdoing. The original suit filed by Crone states that Frye and Moore were employees of Baptist Memorial Hospital. But the Baptist response says Moore was not employed by the hospital but by the Baptist College of Health Sciences. Both entities fall under the Baptist Memorial Health Care Corporation.

"We're investigating their claims, but so far, we've found nothing to support them," says Ayoka Pond, public relations director for Baptist. "At this point, this case has no merit for us.

"The most important thing to remember about this is [Frye and Moore] are two former employees of Baptist," Pond says.

Both men are involved in separate litigation regarding their terminations, which Crone could not comment on.

Employees who opt into the off-the-clock lawsuit are asking for varying amounts of back-pay, depending on individual circumstances. Due to a statute of limitations, employees can only ask for wages dating back two years (three years if Baptist is found to have willingly violated the Fair Labor Standards Act).

"The damages will depend on how many people opt in," Crone says. "It all depends on how often this happened and what their rate of pay was. Mid-level nurses making mid-level money would be entitled to anywhere from $2,000 to $7,000 per year."

The law forbids Baptist from taking action against any current employee who joins the lawsuit. Current and former employees can opt into the suit at BaptistOvertime.com.

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