Court: CNAs' overtime case may continue

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A lawsuit alleging a New Jersey skilled nursing facility underpaid its certified nursing assistants for overtime and meal breaks may continue, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit ruled in May.

The complaint was filed in 2014 by three CNAs at Alaris Health at Cherry Hill in Cherry Hill, NJ. The suit argued that Alaris' parent company, SCO Silver Care Operations, failed to pay workers overtime pay and that employees “rarely, if ever,” took meal breaks due to understaffing.

“Despite the frequent interruptions and restrictions, the plaintiffs allege that the 30-minute meal breaks are automatically deducted from their total hours worked,” the complaint reads. “Consequently, the plaintiffs allege that they are not being paid for all the hours worked, including overtime for those weeks in which they worked more than forty hours.”

The CNAs made the claims on their own behalf, as well as for a class of nursing assistants who worked at Alaris between 2010 and 2013.

Silver Care responded that the CNAs' collective bargaining agreement required that disputes go to arbitration and sought to have the case dismissed.

In his opinion, Third Circuit Judge Julio M. Fuentes found that the CNAs' overtime and meal break claims contained “factual disputes” that do not require arbitration or depend on interpretations of the CBA.

“All of these so-called disputed ‘interpretations' of the CBA, however, are factual questions — length of meal breaks, types of interruptions, how they were handled, and whether the plaintiffs ever received compensation due to these interruptions,” Fuentes wrote.

Fuentes' opinion affirms a lower court's denial of Silver Care's motion to dismiss or stay the proceedings, allowing it to continue. 

A legal representative for Silver Care declined to comment on the ruling.