A Medical Device Daily

The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Nurse Alliance reported a settlement in a class-action lawsuit reached between bedside nurses and Northeast Health (Albany, New York) a network which includes Albany Memorial and Samaritan Hospitals.

The lawsuit contended that Albany area hospitals had for years violated federal antitrust law by sharing confidential wage data and conspiring to depress wages for registered nurses.

The Nurses Alliance hailed the settlement as an "important step" toward ensuring fair compensation for their profession and helping to solve the nurse shortage crisis, thereby improving quality of care for patients.

The $1,250,872 settlement, which is subject to court approval, includes provisions to halt anti-competitive behavior by Northeast Health in the future. These provisions prohibit Northeast Health from sharing current and future nurse wage information with other healthcare facilities in the Albany area, and give plaintiffs access to Northeast Health witnesses in order to further prosecute the action against other area defendants.

Northeast Health is the first among Albany area hospitals to "settle out" of the lawsuit and similar suits are moving forward in Detroit, Chicago, San Antonio and Memphis.

The SEIU Nurse Alliance has played a key role in supporting empirical research that it said "has exposed the national problem of employer collusion around nurse wages, shown the link between wage levels and the shortage of bedside nurses, and demonstrated the importance of staffing levels for improving patient care."

The class-action suit ultimately seeks to recover three times the amount that nurses in the class were underpaid. The proposed settling class consists of direct-care nurses who were employed by certain Albany area hospitals between June 20, 2002, and June 20, 2006.

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