A federal appeals court Friday reinstated two class actions filed against a Kansas City, Missouri, health care system in connection with its timekeeping, holding that more employees lost time than gained it under its rounding-off policy.
Under Saint Luke’s Health System Inc.’s automated timekeeping policy, shifts’ scheduled start or end were rounded to the scheduled time for compensation purposes if they were within six minutes of the scheduled time, according to the ruling by the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis in Torri M. Houston v. Saint Luke’s Health System Inc; Saint Luke’s Northland Hospital Corp.
For example, an employee who clocks in at 8:56 a.m. for a 9 a.m. shift is not paid for those four minutes, while an employee who clocks out at 4:54 pm is still paid for the unworked six minutes, the ruling said.
Ms. Houston, a former employee, sued the hospital system in U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Missouri, claiming its timekeeping system violated the Fair Labor Standards Act. The court certified two classes in the case.
It subsequently granted St. Luke’s summary judgment dismissing the case. A three-judge appeals court panel overturned that decision, citing data collected by both parties on the timekeeping system’s impact.
“Houston has raised a genuine dispute that the rounding policy does not average out over time,” it said. “No matter how one slices the data, most employees and the employees as a whole fared worse under the rounding policy than had they been paid according to their exact time worked,” it said.
“It resulted in lost time for nearly two-thirds of employees, and those employees lost more time than was gained by their coworkers who benefited from rounding,” the ruling said, in vacating the district court’s summary judgment and remanding the case for further proceedings.
The U.S. Secretary of Labor submitted an amicus brief to the appeals court supporting plaintiffs in the case.
Plaintiff attorney Ryan L. McClelland, of the McLelland Law Firm P.C. in Liberty, Missouri, issued a statement that said in part, “This is a critical victory in this case and puts us one step closer to recovering the unpaid wages of thousands of hard-working healthcare workers. We now look forward to litigating these class claims to a decision on the merits.”
The hospital system’s attorneys did not respond to a request for comment.