Class action suit filed alleging WARN Act violation
By TIM ROWDEN
Brentwood, MO – U.S. Congresswomen Cori Bush (D-Mo.) is calling for an investigation into the closure of Northview Village Nursing Home, the 320-bed facility that shut down without notice last month, scattering 175 residents to other care centers across the region and leaving 184 employees unemployed without warning and without their final paychecks less than two weeks before Christmas.
Speaking directly to Northview workers – represented by SEIU Healthcare – as well as former residents and loved ones outside owner Health Accounting Services offices in Brentwood, Bush said, “What you experienced on Dec. 15 and in the direct aftermath, was unfair, unimaginable and absolutely reprehensible.”
Bush called for probes into the facility’s owners, and into the state’s systems for overseeing nursing homes. She made the same demands the day of the rally in a letter to U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra.
“The state has consistently failed to adequately fund inspections and the patient advocacy infrastructure that are necessary to keep tragedies like this one from happening in long term care facilities across the state,” Bush said. “Reporting indicates that out of the 510 nursing homes in Missouri, 126 have not been inspected in over two years. That’s not right. That is the equivalent of almost one in five nursing homes across the state not being properly inspected for health and for safety. If these allegations are true, the state of Missouri must be held accountable too.”
Workers rallied outside Health Accounting Services offices to demand their pay for the days they worked prior to the closure and accrued paid time off (PTO).
They were joined by fellow union members, the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists and Missouri Jobs with Justice.
State Senator Karla May (D-St. Louis), who spoke at a previous rally, said she had reached out to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services to try to make sure that employees are paid and that residents’ rights are protected.
NOTHING BUT EXCUSES
Lenny Jones, state director and vice president of SEIU Healthcare Missouri said Northview’s owners have delayed paying workers what they’re owed and continue to mistreat workers and former residents.
“Since the sudden closure of Northview Village the night of Dec. 15, the out-of-state owners, Mark Suissa and Eric Rothner have made excuses, avoided responsibility for what they caused and have continued to mistreat their employees and residents,” said Jones. “During this time, community, faith, political and union leaders have stepped into the void to support workers residents and their families. We are here today to call attention to the owners’ wrongdoing and to demand immediate payment of missing wages and PTO accrual and remittance of the dues and insurance payments that have been taken from workers’ checks over the past five months that this company has kept.
“This company has made excuses week after week why they haven’t paid the final week that workers worked. The employees of 30 to 35 years of seniority had lots of sick time accruals, vacation time, personal time that should have been paid out. They haven’t gotten that money. We have demanded negotiations around severance, which is typical in a layoff situation for those employees, who have many, many years of seniority. They have refused to respond to our demands for severance.”
WARN ACT LAWSUIT
Carolyn Hawthorne, a registered nurse at the facility, has filed a class action suit against Northview’s owners on behalf of herself and other employees alleging violation of the WARN (Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification) Act, which requires employers with 100 or more employees to provide a 60-day notice of planned closings and mass layoffs.
In addition to laying off workers without notice, Hawthorne said the company said they planned to pay workers for the week they worked prior to the closure but has kept putting it off. The latest date promised by the company for the workers to get paid was Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the federal holiday on Jan. 15, after Labor Tribune press time.
“That’s unacceptable,” Hawthorne said at the rally. “We want our money. We want it now. They have failed to pay healthcare premiums. They have failed to pay paid time off. They have failed to pay the week in which the facility was abruptly shut down. We need our money! This is St. Louis; this is the Show Me state. Show me our money!”