Week Adjourned: 5.14.10

An overtrime pay lawsuit has been filed against GentivaThis week it’s all about bad employers and bad drugs…bad, bad, bad!

Top Class Actions

Whole New Meaning to Visitation Rights. A massive, nationwide class action lawsuit was filed this week by employees of one the largest healthcare service providers in the country—Gentiva Health Services, Inc. The employees are claiming the company violated the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

Apparently, Gentiva—which incidentally employs some 30,000 health care workers—treats visiting nurses and other health care providers as exempt from the overtime requirements of the FLSA and refuses to pay these employees for all hours worked. Sound familiar?

Instead, Gentiva pays nurses and other health care providers on a “per visit” basis for some work, an hourly rate for other work, and fails to pay anything at all for other hours worked. Plaintiffs allege that Gentiva’s rather creative take on employee compensation doesn’t quite meet the requirements of state or federal wage and hour law.

The lawsuit, if approved, seeks to represent all current and former Gentiva employees, including registered nurses, therapists, and other health care providers who are or were not paid for all hours worked.

You know these guys may end up rivalling Wal-Mart…. 

Top Settlements

Movin’ from Price to Wage Rollbacks? (Again?) Speaking of the devil…(I feel a rant coming on)…Wal-Mart actually saw its way to agreeing to a settlement for a—guess what—wages and vacation pay class action—with roughly 232,000 employees who work or worked in the retailer’s California outlets.

The sum? $86 million. Chicken feed by some standards. And it breaks down as $12 million in unpaid vacation wages and $74 million in possible penalties and interest on the unpaid earnings. Of course, the exact amount of the settlement will depend on just how many ex-Wal-Mart employees participate. But according to the agreement, Wal-Mart will pay at least $43 million.

Can you guess the allegations? We should know this by heart by now as Wal-Mart is, unwittingly, a regular contributor to this column…

The lawsuit claimed that after the employees left the company Wal-Mart failed to pay them their holiday and overtime wages or earnings within the time period specified by California law. The complaint was filed in 2006. Only four years ago? C’est magnifique!

According to Bloomberg, who reported on the settlement in its business pages as this may affect the company’s stock price, “California law requires employers to pay all wages owed to fired workers immediately, and employees who quit must be paid all earnings within 72 hours. Employers that violate the law can be required to pay as much as 30 days of wages to workers.”

You know, one could assume that part of the reason Wal-Mart is able to offer such low prices to consumers is because they don’t play fair with their employees.

Just for the record…Bloomberg also reported “Wal-Mart, the largest U.S. private employer with 1.4 million workers, agreed in 2008 to pay as much as $640 million to settle 63 federal and state class-action lawsuits claiming workers were cheated out of wages.”

I wonder if Wal-Mart gets a volume discount on legal fees?

GSK Avandia Settlement. Another giant hit the mat this week—this time it was pharmaceutical behemoth GlaxoSmithKline (GSK). The settlement involves nearly 700 people and a sum of $60 million. The plaintiffs, or one could, I suppose, use the term ‘survivors,’ sued GSK in three separate lawsuits alleging severe adverse events connected with the drug. Avandia, also known as rosiglitazone maleate.

Avandia was developed to treat type 2 diabetes mellitus. It was initially approved by the FDA in 1999, but eight years later the agency reported a significant increase in the risk of heart attack in those patients to whom Avandia had been prescribed. And many deaths have been linked to Avandia. And that’s just what the lawyers said. They alleged their clients suffered heart attacks, stroke, and congestive heart failure as a result of taking the drug. So if the disease doesn’t kill you the medicine will? Isn’t that one a little old?

The first Avandia trial in state court was set to begin in July. GSK reportedly still faces almost 3,000 lawsuits regarding Avandia. 

Read more about this Avandia settlement here.

Ok. That’s it for this week. See you at the bar! (Oh yes. That bar).

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