Recently, Riggan Law Firm, LLC, a St. Louis employment law firm, filed a class and collective action lawsuit on behalf of its clients, a group of home healthcare workers, to recover unpaid wages for time that the employees spent working "off the clock." The plaintiffs, who worked for SSM Health at Home as home healthcare workers, assert claims for unpaid overtime wages under the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA") and Missouri Minimum Wage Law ("MMWL"), as well as claims for unpaid gap-time wages under Missouri common law.
The lawsuit—filed on behalf of a class of home healthcare workers, including licensed practical nurses (LPNs), certified nurse assistants (CNAs), and home health aides—alleges that SSM Health at Home suffered and/or permitted its hourly-paid home healthcare workers to spend time working off the clock. Specifically, the plaintiffs allege that the time they and other similarly-situated class members spent working off the clock included time spent working before their paid shift begins, during unpaid meal breaks, and after their paid shift ends.
With respect to unpaid pre-shift and post-shift work time, the suit alleges:
In addition to providing home healthcare services to SSM's patients, Plaintiff and other similarly situated employees were required to perform a variety of other job-related tasks, including but not limited to charting; preparing reports; computer work; communicating by phone, e-mail, and/or text with patients, physicians, and supervisors; seeing patients after hours; telephone visits and charting of telephone visits; delivering laboratory specimens; paging doctors after hours; responding to lab values after hours; answering patient phone calls; answering doctor office phone calls after hours; returning messages; calling patients back and providing further education and instruction; relaying doctors' orders; charting patient information and follow up notes to case managers; calling reports to case managers; communicating with supervisors regarding patient care; documentation of doctors' orders; communicating with co-workers regarding patients; calling patients to schedule visits; communicating with staff scheduler regarding changes to patients' visit schedule; and various other duties. Due to the heavy workload, Plaintiff and other similarly situated employees often performed these tasks outside of their regular paid shift, such as in the morning before their paid shift began and during the late afternoon and/or in the evening after their paid shift ended. SSM, through its managers, suffered and/or permitted this work during pre-shift and/or post-shift hours, yet discouraged and/or prevented employees from reporting the work hours as paid time. Specifically, Plaintiff and other similarly situated employees utilized SSM-issued laptop computers to access SSM's computer system/software to create, edit, and finalize work-related reports at times while they were not clocked into SSM's timekeeping system and were not paid for said work time. These reports were time-stamped within SSM's computer system, and served to put SSM on notice that employees were working at times when they were not clocked into the timekeeping system and thus were not being compensated for those work hours. SSM knew or reasonably should have known that Plaintiff and other similarly situated employees were working off-the-clock, and SSM suffered and/or permitted said off-the-clock work.
With respect to time spent working during unpaid meal breaks, the suit alleges as follows:
On a daily basis, Plaintiff and those similarly situated traveled to and from patients' homes for the purpose of providing in-home health care services. Due to their heavy workload, employees often did not have sufficient time to take a meal break, yet SSM automatically deducted a daily 30+-minute meal break from employees' paid work hours, regardless of whether an employee actually took/received a full or partial meal break. While SSM theoretically had a "punch code" for employees to use to opt-out of the automatically deducted meal break, SSM management discouraged and/or prevented employees from using the punch code, thereby rendering it an ineffective mechanism for employees to get paid for time spent working during or through their automatically deducted meal period. On a frequent basis, Plaintiff and other similarly situated employees worked during or through their automatically deducted meal period, yet they were not compensated for that work time.
According to its website, SSM Health at Home (formerly known as SSM Home Care) provides home healthcare in more than 50 counties across Missouri, Illinois, and Oklahoma.
In the lawsuit, which was filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri, the home healthcare workers seek recovery of unpaid wages, statutory liquidated damages, attorneys' fees, and litigation costs/expenses.