Advocate Under Fire in Another Home Health Lawsuit

Home health workers are again filing suit against Advocate Health Care, as a group of home care nurses claim the company improperly exempted them from certain federal and state wage laws and therefore owes them overtime pay.

Advocate is a faith-based, not-for-profit health system based in Downers Grove, Illinois. The company has one of the largest home health companies in the state, along with more than 250 sites of care, including 12 acute-care hospitals. Advocate employs more than 35,000 associates, including 6,300 affiliated physicians and nearly 10,000 nurses.

Registered nurse Christy Vazquez filed a class action complaint in Chicago federal court earlier this month on behalf of Advocate’s so-called “infusion RNs,” or those working as RNs providing health care infusion and pediatric services to patients in their homes, according to the Cook County Record. The move follows a similar class action case brought forth by in-home physical therapists and other home health care workers, which resulted in Advocate settling for $4.75 million.

In the lawsuit, Vazquez argued that Advocate violated both the Fair Labor Standards Act and Illinois Minimum Wage Law. She claimed Advocate placed the duties she and other workers perform in exempt categories under both statutes, and excluded them under the pretense that they’re compensated on either a salary or fee basis. However, Vazquez said they are actually paid on both an hourly and per-visit basis, therefore making them eligible for certain wage protections.

Vazquez estimated at least 40 current and former infusion nurses who worked in such a capacity at any point over the past three years could qualify as additional plaintiffs on the lawsuit, the Cook County Record states. In addition to certification as overtime-eligible employees and a jury trial, Vazquez wants Advocate to pay compensatory damages of time and a half for all overtime hours, plus 2% interest; liquidated damages equal to the amount of unpaid overtime; and attorney fees

Advocate faced complaints that resembled those from Vazquez in a case filed in 2014. A group of physical and occupational therapists, along with home health care RNs, argued the company had underpaid them under similar exemption claims. Advocated agreed to pay $4.75 million to settle that lawsuit, according to federal documents, and a federal judge granted preliminary approval to that settlement in March.

Written by Kourtney Liepelt