Golden Living fighting $1.8 million in back-vacation pay owed to employees

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Golden Living is in court to overturn an arbitration decision
Golden Living is in court to overturn an arbitration decision

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been updated with a statement from a Golden Living spokeswoman.

Golden Living Centers is fighting an arbitration ruling that found the company owes $1.8 million in vacation pay to 2,000 former employees at 36 Pennsylvania nursing homes.

The company sold the operations of those homes in 2016 and 2017. The dispute is connected to a delay in turning over daily operations.

SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania, the union representing the employees, told Philly.com that employees initially agreed to accept half the vacation pay owed to them if the sales were completed by Dec. 31, 2016.

When that didn't happen, the union argued that workers reverted to their original collective bargaining agreement requiring Golden Living to pay 100% of the employees' 2017 vacation time.

Paperwork filed with the U. S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania shows that Golden Living was unhappy with a Dec. 3 arbitration ruling that the company did indeed owe the full amount. In its Dec. 29 appeal, the company argues the arbitrator improperly ignored agreements that superseded parts of the union contract.

"The SEIU is seeking additional compensation which is outside of the originally negotiated agreement," said Golden Living Centers spokeswoman elli Luneborg-Stern on Thursday. "The Golden LivingCenters and the SEIU have engaged in negotiations to resolve the issues and are utilizing the ordinary legal remedies available as part of the effort to resolve the disagreement. Until the disagreement is resolved, we are not at liberty to discuss the matter in further detail." 

Luneborg-Stern added that Golden Living and SEIU have negotiated and operated under "multiple" collective bargaining agreements dating back to the 1980s. "From time-to-time, the parties have disagreed over the interpretation of agreements," she noted.

A union official equated the company's refusal to pay with “wage theft.”

During a conference call with reporters, John Barger, a licensed practical nurse, said the company owes him $5,000. “The money would make a big difference in my life,” Philly.com quoted him as saying.