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Wilkes-Barre General Hospital fined for violating labor rights

Aimee Dilger

Wilkes-Barre General Hospital settled with the Department of Labor and Industry and the Bureau of Labor Law Compliance for violating the Pennsylvania Prohibition of Excessive Overtime in Healthcare Act.

Also known as Act 102, the law prohibits health care facilities from requiring employees to work extra hours that are not predetermined or agreed to.

There were 42 complainants ready to testify when the hospital agreed to pay a $12,000 fine as part of the settlement. Cardiovascular ICU nurse Joyce Sciandra is one of them.

“It’s a win for everyone,” she said. “It’s a win for nurses, who won’t be forced to stay beyond their shifts; it’s a win for patients, who won’t have nurses who are exhausted and working well beyond their shifts; and it’s a win for administration because if staff feels happy and feels that administration cares about them, it reflects well on them.”

“I’m glad we spoke up and the Department of Labor held the hospital accountable,” said nurse Judy Martin, also a complainant in the case. “On the day I was mandated – in clear violation of Act 102 – I was working a 12-hour shift. That 12-hour shift became a 16-plus-hour shift. Every decision in healthcare should come down to patient safety, and that decision by the hospital was not safe for my patients.”

Commonwealth Health System, the owner of Wilkes-Barre General Hospital, provided this statement:

“The Department of Labor and Industry found that out of roughly 60,000 shifts at the Hospital over approximately a 6-year period from 2016 to 2022, there were questions how nurses were required to stay on 42 of the shifts, almost all in just 2 departments and in some cases for as short as 30 minutes to complete providing care during the nursing challenges due to COVID… [Wilkes-Barre General Hospital] has at all times complied with both the letter and spirit of the law regarding mandatory overtime, which permits healthcare providers in Pennsylvania to require nurses and others to continue working when necessary for patient care, and will continue to do so in providing the best possible care to the Wyoming Valley community.”

The hospital denies the allegations, but agreed to settle to avoid the expenses of a hearing.

The settlement also comes with additional oversight, including training and meetings with the Bureau of Labor Compliance to ensure ongoing compliance with the Act.

Haley joined the WVIA news team in 2023 as a reporter and host. She grew up in Scranton and studied Broadcast Journalism at Marywood University. Haley has experience reporting in Northeast Pennsylvania and the Lehigh Valley. She enjoys reporting on Pennsylvania history and culture, and video storytelling.

You can email Haley at haleyobrien@wvia.org
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