August 25, 2011 in City

Appeals court favors Sacred Heart in nurse dispute

By The Spokesman-Review
 

The Washington Court of Appeals has ruled that registered nurses at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center are not entitled to overtime pay when their duties prevent them from taking their contract-provided two 15-minute daily breaks.

The ruling, issued Thursday by the court’s Division III, overturned a Spokane court’s ruling that the nurses were entitled to time-and-a-half wages for the break time not taken.

The dispute goes back to 2004. After a grievance was filed by the nurses’ union, Providence Sacred Heart agreed and created a time-management system that provided an additional quarter-hour of salary for every skipped work break.

Then the nurses argued that they were owed overtime for the missed breaks, not just straight time for the 15 minutes.

A Spokane Superior Court judge ruled in their favor and ordered Providence Sacred Heart to pay more than $327,000 in damages, lost wages and legal costs.

The hospital appealed the ruling. Thursday’s ruling agreed with the hospital and said the break times not taken fell within the normal 40-hour work week, and the missed breaks did not require the nurses to exceed a normal work week.

It also noted that the hospital was compensating each nurse for missed work breaks.

Appellate Judge Steven Brown dissented. While he agreed with the lower-court ruling in favor of the nurses, he noted that he didn’t agree with its award of double damages.

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