Upd: Joliet Nurses File Mass Wage Theft Claim Against Ascension Health – Includes Statement By Ascension

On the heels of their third strike against healthcare giant Ascension, a class action lawsuit has been filed on behalf of over 90 nurses at the hospital who experienced wage theft last fall. 

A lawsuit filed this morning in the Circuit Court of Will County alleges that nurses Kaitlynd French, Beth Corsetti and over 90 of their coworkers were not paid wages they earned during the lead up to a lockout in November. Represented by Despres, Schwartz and Geoghegan Ltd., the nurses are suing Ascension Health under the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act. As alleged in the complaint, Ascension Health entered into agreements with nurses to pay them extra to work shifts beyond their normal schedule and then refused to pay them as agreed after those shifts had already been worked. 

Ascension Saint Joseph has struggled for years to hire enough nurses to function. This has led to a reliance on existing nurses taking on shifts above their full time load in exchange for extra incentive pay to keep the hospital functioning. Nurses were locked out of the hospital for four days around the Thanksgiving holiday in retaliation for the union calling a two day strike. During the pay period that included the strike and lockout, nurses were encouraged to work incentive shifts, as they did during most pay periods. It was only after they returned to work the following week that they were informed they would not be paid at the rate they had been promised. 

The silver lining of Joe’s being understaffed is that you can always make some extra money picking up ‘incentive shifts’.” nurse and plaintiff Kaitlynd French said. “After our last strike and lockout, the incentive shifts were paid out so nurses took on hours of extra work with no idea that they wouldn’t be compensated.” 

The employer agreed, both as a matter of standing policy and individually with each nurse for each shift, to pay incentive pay for shifts that nurses worked above and beyond their normal schedule,” attorney Will Bloom said. “Only after the nurses had worked the agreed shifts did the employer announce that they would not pay them as agreed. That’s textbook wage theft.” 

Separately from this lawsuit, nurses will continue negotiations with Ascension representatives in the hopes of reaching a contract that will retain and recruit talent to the hospital. While many of the terms of the contract have been settled, distance remains between the employer’s offer and the market rate on wages. Policies around unsafe reassignment of nurses outside of their scope of practice have also prevented a deal from being ratified by the membership.

Statement from Ascension:

  • Illinois Nurses Association (INA) continues to attempt to move the focus away from the work Ascension Saint Joseph – Joliet has done to implement our last, best and final offer, pay our nurses a competitive wage, hire more nurses to support our care teams and recognize our nurses for the quality care they provide our patients.
  • INA represented nurses were paid pursuant to the terms of the union’s negotiated collective bargaining agreement. This lawsuit has no merit, and we will be seeking its dismissal.
  • We continue to work through issues with INA at the bargaining table. We are ready to move forward together to provide the Joliet community with the quality healthcare they deserve. We hope INA will get serious about working toward a resolution.