PORTLAND, Ore. - Three Portland-area hospitals have been fined a potential $5.1 million for more than 5,100 meal and rest period violations -- the largest such penalties in state Bureau of Labor and Industries history, the agency announced Friday. The hospitals' parent organization strongly disputed the claims and vowed to contest them.
Legacy Meridian Park Hospital, Legacy Mount Hood Medical Center and Legacy Good Samaritan Hospital and Medical Center have each received separate Notices of Intent to Assess Civil Penalties from BOLI that could total $5,156,000 in civil penalties for allegations of 5,156 meal and rest period violations in aggregate.
These documents are the findings of BOLI’s Wage and Hour Division investigations and will become final on Sept. 25, unless a contested case hearing is requested by the respondent(s) within that time, the agency said.
The $5,156,000 represents the largest potential assessment of civil penalties in the agency’s history. BOLI assessed $276,690 in civil penalties against Legacy Emanuel in November of 2017 for meal and rest period violations, which Legacy did not contest and paid in full.
During 2017 investigations, the agency said, wage and hour compliance specialists found willful failure to provide appropriate meal periods on 2,226 occasions by Legacy Good Samaritan Hospital and Medical Center, including the 5W Labor and Delivery Department.
Additionally, 1,391 willful failures to provide appropriate meal periods were found at Legacy Mount Hood Medical Center, and an additional 1,267 at Legacy Meridian Park Hospital.
In addition, the Wage and Hour Division found the respondent willfully failed to provide appropriate rest periods to 272 employees during investigations at all three hospitals combined. BOLI said it is assessing $1,000 per violation, the maximum penalty, alleging that the violations were willful because management knew or should have known about meal and rest period requirements and failed to comply with the law.
BOLI said it initiated a series of investigations after receiving multiple employee complaints against the hospital system.
Under Oregon law, employers must provide one 30-minute unpaid meal break to anyone working a shift of six hours or more. Businesses must also provide two paid 10-minute rest breaks in an eight-hour shift and three such breaks in any shift longer than 10 hours.
Employees with wage and hour claims or complaints may contact the Wage and Hour Division at (971) 673-0844 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Employers seeking compliance guidance may contact the agency’s Technical Assistance for Employers hotline at (971) 673-0824.
Here's Legacy Health System's response:
Legacy Health just received the Notices of Intent to Assess Civil Penalties from the Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI) this week. Legacy Health fundamentally disagrees with the results of the BOLI investigation and its allegations regarding the appropriateness of the meal periods that Legacy has provided to its employees. We strongly dispute BOLI’s inappropriate characterization of Legacy’s actions as willful as well as the excessive and disproportionate penalties. We are dismayed that, in at least one case, BOLI pointed to an eight-year-old complaint to justify itself.
Further, we are disappointed that BOLI’s investigation failed to take into account the fact that the needs of our patients and their families sometimes cause meal breaks to be deferred to later in a shift. Legacy Health will seek a hearing on these allegations through all levels of the civil administrative process and the legal process and vigorously defend our actions and policies. We are confident that our position will be supported once all of the facts of the investigation are known.
Legacy Health has always been committed to creating a safe and healthy work environment. Legacy Health provides support for all of our staff in their work, including getting the meal breaks they are entitled to under the law. We remain 100% committed to ensuring the continued health and safety of our workforce.