Los Angeles Times - 10/16/03 - Toni Jaramilla Represents Whistleblower - Cedars - Sinai Employees Will Receive $875,000

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AttorneyLOS ANGELES TIMES - 10/16/03

Hospital to Pay Workers Overtime It Withheld

Cedars-Sinai employees will receive $875,000 after an audit finds timecards were altered.

By Lisa Richardson
Times Staff-Writer

Cedars-Sinai Medical Center on Wednesday said it would pay employees $875,000 in overtime wages after an internal audit found hospital officials had inappropriately altered some time-cards.

After an employee's complaint in April, the state Department of Labor Standards and Enforcement asked the hospital to do the audit, said Dean Fryer, a spokesman for the agency.

"Through our investigative process, through interviews with employees, we determined there may be problems that may go beyond just a few employees, so we asked them to do a self-audit," Fryer said.

Hospital officials said Wednesday that inconsistencies in overtime pay had arisen because employees had clocked in to work before their shifts began and the hospital had later altered their time cards to deduct unearned pay.

But since 1937, the state labor code has prohibited employers from deducting wages to recoup payments, Fryer said. The hospital was obliged to file claims for damages in court if it wished to contest the payments.

"They have every right to take disciplinary actions against employees who don't follow their guidelines for clocking in." Fryer said. "That would've been the appropriate route."

The California Nurses Assn., however, which is involved in a contentious organizing effort at the hospital, said that depriving employees of compensation illustrates management's disrespect for workers.

"We think it's outrageous this pay was denied to these employees in the first place," said Chuck Idelson, association spokesman. "And for Cedars now to seek to blame employees for its practice of denying overtime pay is disgraceful."

The state is satisfied that Cedars-Sinai's self-audit was fair and won't pursue the matter, Fryer said.